Through baptism, laity, clergy, and religious alike are called to holiness and to ministry with the same baptismal privileges and responsibilities for furthering the mission of the Church and transforming the world. Although we expect the clergy and religious to prepare for and engage in ministry, the recognition that the laity’s calling also has the same baptismal privileges and responsibilities for furthering the mission of the Church in the activities of their world has been put into practice at a slow pace.
People said repeatedly:
- “Improve communications between priests and laity and between parishes.”
- “Parishes should be collaborating with each other to provide ministry and avoid duplication.”
- “Allow the laity who are already trained, to take over the role of business managers or parish administration so priests can do the work of ordained ministry.”
- “Train the laity to be more involved in parish ministries.”
- “We can help!”
Speak Up participants expressed frustration that the gifts of the laity sometimes lie dormant or are unacknowledged or even unappreciated. Others seemed to embrace a limited view of lay involvement, saying that “ministry” is better left to priests. This, however, cannot be squared with the Church’s demand that the talent and expertise of the laity be recognized, called forth, and cultivated in service to the Gospel.
Lay persons are called to work to make God’s love present to transform the world through some form of ministry. Each one of the baptized has been given gifts to give witness to the Gospel. “Now you are Christ’s body, and individually parts of it. Some people God has designated in the church to be, first, apostles; second, prophets; third, teachers; then, mighty deeds; then, gifts of healing, assistance, administration, and varieties of tongues.” 1 Cor. 2-27-28.
These gifts for lay ministries are not to lie dormant or unacknowledged. They must be recognized, called forth, and cultivated. Through direction, formation, and support, (both human and financial) lay ministers can be empowered to bring their skills and expertise to serve the Gospel. Dynamic parishes assess needs, assist with lay formation and funding, and evaluate competence to ensure lay ministries are carrying out the mission of the Church. This is why the Diocese of Camden has instituted the Lay Ministry Formation Program.
Envisioning lay ministry roles in their rightful place in the Church can lead to a new paradigm as the Church looks to the future. Thus, lay ministry has been identified as a strong pastoral priority for the future of the Church of South Jersey.