Newsletter for U.S. Bishops Sponsored
by the NCCB Subcommittee on Lay Ministry
|This newsletter is developed by the NCCB Subcommittee on Lay Ministry. The purpose of this newsletter is to highlight lay ministry trends, resources, models, and other key information that may be helpful to the U.S. Bishops. Please forward suggestions and comments to:
NCCB Secretariat for Family, Laity, Women, and Youth
3211 4th Street, NE
Washington, DC 20017-1194
Diocese of LaCrosse Establishes Lay Formation Scholarship Fund
In 1972 the diocese of LaCrosse first set aside funding for the formation and education of laity. Since that time, it has been customary for parishes to fund persons who participate in the Lay Ministry Formation Program of the diocese. Funding for that program will continue in the same manner.
This year the diocese inaugurated a new and more substantial Lay Formation Scholarship Program designating funds raised by the Bishops Annual Appeal. According to Father John Parr, Director of the Ministries Office, the appeal - which included specific reference to the need for funding such education of lay persons - has been particularly successful during the last two years. Development of the program will be an on-going part of the appeal and the goal is to establish an endowment from which the scholarships can be funded.
The purpose of the fund is to assist persons to upgrade their ministerial skills or to complete degree programs which would enhance their ministry to the church in the diocese of LaCrosse. Scholarships may be applied to undergraduate or graduate degrees in fields and disciplines pertinent to church ministry or to workshops and seminars related to church ministry.
Those who are eligible for awards include lay men and women who have the requisite qualities and qualifications for employment by the diocese and lay persons currently engaged in church ministry roles of any diocesan institution or corporation; e.g. directors of religious education, catechists, liturgy coordinators, youth ministers, pastoral associates, pastoral ministers, Catholic school teachers, curia personnel, Catholic Charities staff, etc. According to the guidelines for the Fund, "recipients must make a commitment to service in the diocese of LaCrosse or have demonstrated such service." Each award shall have an annual value of up to $1,250 and recipients may re-apply each year.
Father Parr commented that the brand new program is "long overdue," and was established as a complement to the other diocesan commitments to lay formation and as a recognition of the responsibility of the diocese to assist with the professional education of its lay ministers.
Further information from Father John Parr, Director of Office of Ministries, Diocese of LaCrosse, 608-788-7700.
Oakland Diocese Inaugurates Ecclesial Lay Ministers Council
When the diocese of Oakland adopted a pastoral plan, Faith in Service to the World, in 1994, it stated that it "would offer support and recognition to lay ministers." That support and encouragement has led to the establishment of an ecclesial lay ministers council which will be holding its first formal meeting in April. The council will be a consultative body similar to and collaborating with the Presbyteral Council, the Deacons Council, and the Diocesan Pastoral Council.
A working draft for the Council identifies three goals:
- to foster the spiritual formation and professional development of lay ministers
- to develop, in collaboration with other diocesan services and departments, services and materials that support career lay ministers
- to be a place of dialogue and recommendation for issues related to professional standards, certification, placement, compensation and working environments.
Sixteen lay ministers participated in the discernment day held at the end of January. Their answers to the question "what excites you or surprises you about the vision of the ELMC" included "seeing the support of the Bishop and the Bishops Administrative Council; our readiness for the next generation of pastoral ministers; [and] the hope that the ELMC will bring about unity and recognize the diversity of our diocese." The challenges that they saw included "acceptance by the presbyters and the laity [and] being proactive in determining what keeps parishes viable."
The commitment of the diocese in its pastoral plan and the many dialogues and consultations by the lay ministers and diocesan staff will come to fruition in April.
Further information from Chuck Siebenand, Director of Pastoral Planning, Diocese of Oakland 510-267-8538.
From Our Tradition . . .
The Intraecclesial Apostolate of Laity Needs to be Promoted
There is a second area in which many lay faithful are called to work, and this can be called intraecclesial. A good number of lay people in America legitimately aspire to contribute their talents and charisms "to the building of the ecclesial community as delegates of the word, catechists, visitors to the sick and imprisoned, group leaders, etc." The synod fathers expressed the hope that the church would recognize some of these works as lay ministries, with a basis in the sacraments of baptism and confirmation, without compromising the specific ministries proper to the sacrament of orders.
This is a large and complex issue, and some time ago I established a commission to study it; in this regard the offices of the Holy See have from time to time provided guidelines... There is a need to promote positive cooperation between properly trained lay men and women in different activities within the church, while avoiding any confusion with the ordained ministries and the activities proper to the sacrament of orders, so that the common priesthood of the faithful remains clearly distinguished from that of the ordained.
In this respect, the synod fathers recommended that the works entrusted to lay people be clearly "distinct from those which constitute steps on the way to ordained ministry" and which are carried out by candidates for the priesthood before ordination. It was also noted that these lay works "should be undertaken only by men and women who have received the necessary training in accordance with clearly defined criteria: a stable presence, a real readiness to serve a determined group of persons, and the duty of accountability to their pastor." In any event, while the intraecclesial Apostolate of lay people needs to be promoted, care must be taken to ensure that it goes hand in hand with the activity proper to the laity, in which their place cannot be taken by priests:
John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation, Ecclesia in America, 44
From Our Jewish & Christian Neighbors. . .
New Publication Explores Role of the Laity in Christian Churches
A Letter from Christ to the World, edited by Nicholas Apostola and published by the World Council of Churches, Geneva, contains sixteen essays which address the relationship between the church and the world and the relationship between the clergy and the laity. The contributors represent the Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist, Eastern Orthodox, Evangelical Lutheran, United Methodist, German United Lutheran and Reformed, and Swiss Reformed churches. In May 1997 twenty-seven men and women met to consider "the possibility of coming to a common understanding of the theological concepts of laity/laos/the people of God." The contents of the book are the fruit of that consultation.
The Statement of the Consultation notes that today many more people than in the past are seeking theological education and that not all of them are ordained or professional church workers. It further states that "the superficial attribution of matters 'sacred' to the clergy and 'secular' to the laity must be transcended. We live in the world even though our Christian faith cautions us about becoming captives of it." The Statement cites the meaning of ordination and oversight, and the relationship between the ordained and the laity as "among the most vexing areas of disagreement among our churches." It comments that "All are called to be Christ's agents of transformation in the world, serving in different ways and means according to one's gifts and inclinations. These differences do not involve the superiority of how one's gifts are being utilized in service and whether that inhibits the full potential of others."
The book concludes with a "Letter to All God's People," written from the first world convention of lay centers and movements for social concerns which reminds its readers that
"Clergy and lay people together are all members of the one people of God, members of the one body of Christ, and endowed with the one spirit of God."
From Around the World . . .
Havana Opens Theological Institute for the Laity
In the 1960's the communist revolution closed all educational centers in Cuba. In November 1998, the Archdiocese of Havana opened a theological and pastoral institute for the formation of the laity. It is seen by the archdiocese as a concrete means to implement the "National Pastoral Plan" which the Cuban bishops adopted after the January 1998 visit of Pope John Paul II to their country. According to that plan, the formation of lay pastoral agents is a top priority for the evangelization of Cuba.
The institute offers basic theological formation and a degree in various specializations to those who complete the three-year program. The first year consists of the basic concepts of Catholic theology; the second includes courses in christology, ecclesiology, moral theology, sacramental theology and the social teachings of the Church. Also during the second year, students will choose a pastoral field for their specialization: catechesis, youth ministry, health ministry, pastoral ministry, or liturgy. The third year of the program, which will start in 2000, will focus on in-depth theological formation and pastoral practice.
Archdiocesan sources noted that, at present, the number of lay people enrolling in the program "is greater than expected," but they added that they "are making arrangement so that there are no people left out."
Catholic International, January 1999, p.3