Thursday, July 21, 2016

Count Down to World Youth Day: Lay Ecclesial Ministers Nurturing our Lives

By Bishop John M. Quinn of Winona, Minnesota

As preparations are underway for attending World Youth Day, I am wondering –how many vocations will be inspired during this year’s event? How many who attend will be ready to follow the Lord’s call.  For Bishops the time is an inspiration as we realize the many youth and young adults who truly care for their faith and for the Church who brought it them.

In my own role as chair of the Subcommittee on Certification for Ecclesial Ministry and Service, I wonder, how many participants will realize the role that lay ecclesial ministers, religious and priests have had in their faith formation and participation in this event?

How many will be inspired to follow their own call of the Lord through this event? Perhaps some will also meet and discover their vocation to marriage. Others will be inspired to consider leadership roles the Church – as priests, permanent deacons, religious and yes – lay ecclesial ministers.

What is a lay ecclesial minister?  The average person in the pew may honestly not know how to answer this question. However, many experience your parish lay ecclesial ministers every day. For example, have you been a participant in religious education? Then you have encountered your parish director of religious education – a lay ecclesial minister. Are you coming to World Youth day with your parish youth minister? If you so you are coming with a lay ecclesial minister?  Are you in college and coming with a group through campus ministry?  If so, you are likely coming with your Campus Minister – who may also be a lay ecclesial minister.

The term “lay ecclesial minister” is used to include many possible roles in Church leadership. In parish life—to cite only one sphere of involvement—the pastoral associate, parish catechetical leader, youth ministry leader, school principal, and director of liturgy or pastoral music are examples of such roles.  

Did you know that the U.S. Bishop’s Conference – the USCCB - has a document about lay ecclesial ministers?  It’s called Co-Workers in the Vineyard of the Lord and offers a good description of what a lay ecclesial minister is:

The term lay ecclesial minister is a general term to describe those men and women, many whose roles, I mentioned above, whose ecclesial service is characterized by:
·         Authorization of the hierarchy to serve publicly in the local church
·         Leadership in a particular area of ministry
·         Close mutual collaboration with the pastoral ministry of bishops, priests, and deacons
·         Preparation and formation appropriate to the level of responsibilities that are assigned to them

I am sure that Pope Francis will remind us all to be enthusiastic be missionary disciples while we are gathered in Kraków.   I’m hoping that many of you who are gathered with us will consider what is God calling you to do. Perhaps you will talk with the trained leaders who came with you. Perhaps you will be inspired to follow them and consider offering your gifts and talents and become a priest, permanent deacon,  consecrated religious or yes – even a lay ecclesial minister!

If so I am grateful to know that, as chair of the conference, Subcommittee on certification for Ecclesial Ministry and Service, I have the opportunity to help see that you will be well prepared.

After World Youth Day, I hope to encourage members of our subcommittee and lay ecclesial ministers to share the stories of their call. Until our next update, if you would like to learn more – about the subcommittee, you might go to: www.usccb/certification   If you would like to learn more about lay ecclesial ministry in general, and current questions as we discern this development in the Church, see the USCCB web page on the Summit held last year.

Until then please let’s together join in prayer that many may be inspired to follow God’s call during their experience at Kraków. I look forward to seeing you there! May the Holy Spirit move you to discover what God is calling you to do, whatever your vocation may be. We all have one. The harvest is great!

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