Vocation » Call to Lay Ecclesial Ministry

Call to Lay Ecclesial Ministry

Bishop Jacques Berthelet, C.S.V., of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, in an intervention at the 1997 Synod of Bishops' Special Assembly for America highlighted the view of the Canadian church regarding lay ecclesial ministry this way:

The parish is primarily seen as the place where the sacraments are celebrated. Its mission, however, is much vaster. The biblical images that should inspire it, besides that of the shepherd, are the sower and the fisher. The image of the sower reminds us the parish is to be unstinting in sowing the Word of God in those places and among those people it is to evangelize. The image of the fisher helps us understand the mission of the parish is to go out onto the high sea where there is danger and risk but also the miraculous catch. Parishes need to be more intimate as well as more accessible. They have no future if closed in on themselves, and so must make new alliances with neighbouring parishes, as well as with the surrounding neighbourhood and region, in addition to cultural and social groups. Parishes need to become more personal and human by encouraging small interrelated ecclesial communities within themselves. In short, they should be renewed and revitalized every way possible. 

Ministries also need to be fine-tuned and harmonized to better assist the encounter with the living Jesus Christ. In many dioceses throughout the Americas priests cannot handle the task. The Church has been blessed with many lay women and men with the theological and pastoral formation needed to participate in pastoral work. They fulfill a true ministry, and their contributions are essential to the evangelization of youth, families and local communities. Pope Paul VI joyfully and openly welcomed their contributions when he said that "the Church recognizes the place for non-ordained ministries which are able to offer a particular service to the Church" (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi, No. 73). 

In the Diocese of Nelson, lay ecclesial ministries are essential and enriching to the life of the church. The term “lay ecclesial ministers” means pastoral ministers who are not ordained. Lay ecclesial ministry operates in close collaboration with the bishop, and the pastors and deacons in the parishes.  The minister is authorized to exercise leadership in a particular area, and has received preparation and formation appropriate to their level of responsibility. ‘Lay ecclesial ministry’ has come to mean Pastoral Coordinator or Moderator of a Parish, Pastoral Associate, Director of Religious Education, Youth Minister, Campus Minister, Hospital Chaplain.

Since the Second Vatican Council, new forms of ministry have emerged that have been termed ‘lay ministry’ since it is rooted in the baptismal call.  Included in ‘lay ministry’ are specific ministries to support the church community: lector/reader, extraordinary minister of the Eucharist, sponsor/godparent, etc. In addition to this general lay ministry, a number of non-ordained people have begun ministry that formerly belonged only to the ordained, including parish and catechetical staff, hospital and prison chaplains, campus ministers, and other diocesan leadership roles.  

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“The only thing that counts is faith working through love.”
(Galatians 5:6)

The idea of service, dear brothers and sisters, is essential to the lay apostolate and to all ministry. Service is at the very core of every vocation in the Church: the service of God and our neighbour which is at once zealous and humble, always motivated by a desire to fulfil God’s will as it is manifested through the guiding action of the Holy Spirit at work in the Church.

(John Paul II, Halifax, 1984)