- Lay Ecclesial Ministry—Pathways Toward the Future
No stranger to those studying, teaching, and serving as lay ecclesial ministers, Zeni Fox hopes in the Preface that the text will foster ongoing reflection in the Church on lay ministers and their services. The Foreword by Amy Hoey recalls the numerous questions addressed to the USCCB's Subcommittee on Lay Ministry over a ten year period by bishops, specialists in academic fields, diocesan personnel, and full or part-time lay ministers in the parishes and dioceses throughout the United States. The questions enabled the bishops to recognize that lay ecclesial ministry is a living reality, subject to change and future development. They agreed to a resource document, Co-Workers in the Vineyard of the Lord, for guiding the development of lay ecclesial ministry in the various dioceses.
Published five years subsequent to the bishops' resource document, the present text responds to the call for ongoing theological, spiritual, and pastoral study on the subject. Representatives of the entire ecclesial community (clerics, laity and consecrated persons) reflect on the phenomenon of lay ecclesial ministry within their professional disciplines in four parts of the text: 1) Response to Co-Workers in the Vineyard of the Lord; 2) Mining our Theological Tradition; 3) Mining our Spiritual Tradition; and 4) Implications for Pastoral Practice.
In part one, McCord acknowledges that the resource document is not perfect; nevertheless, it successfully integrates lay ecclesial ministry within a broader theology of Church and ministry. It remains for pastoral practice to both name and claim lay ecclesial ministry for its successful insertion into the life of the Church. Gaillardetz identifies Co-Workers in the Vineyard of the Lord [End Page 296] (Co-Workers) as "the most mature and coherent ecclesiastical document ever produced on a theology of ministry." He names the theological contributions of Co-Workers demanding ecclesial reception: the priority of the baptismal call of the Christian faithful, an explanation of the public character of ministry, the recognition of ministry within an ecclesiology of communion, the complementary relations of the ordained and lay ecclesial ministries as collaborative rather than competitive, ministry within a theology of mission, and vocational discernment. While these contributions are not original, the significance of the resource document lies in the episcopal reception of a theology of ministry already operative in the United States church.
In part two, the longest of the four, five authors mine the Church's theological tradition. Wcela addresses ministry in the New Testament, demonstrating how Christ enlisted men and women to assist him in spreading the kingdom by word and labors. With the death of Jesus, each person in the early Christian communities accepted responsibility for building up the community with various gifts and ministries. O'Meara, O.P. explores the expansion of ministry in the parishes and dioceses following Vatican II. He sees the renewal of ministry as a rediscovery of the self-understanding of the churches after Pentecost. Ministry comes from a personal experience of grace, an existential hearing of the word, and a deeper understanding of the sacraments. Hahnenberg reflects on the present experience of lay ecclesial ministry in order to identify realities that need further theological reflection: call, community, and recognition. Such reflection will assist in contextualizing lay ecclesial ministry within the structures of the Church. Vincie, R.S.H.M. studies lay ecclesial ministry and ritual. She recognizes the importance of ritual for stability, identity, formation, and facilitating social change. She offers theories regarding ritual from the social sciences and suggests that such studies have significant implications for lay ecclesial ministry. Euart approaches lay ecclesial ministry from a canonical perspective, demonstrating the impact of canon law on the development of lay ecclesial ministry within the parochial community. She admits that challenges, such as the formation and education of lay ministers, clarity of roles, temporary or permanent commitments, and appropriate titles for lay ecclesial ministers, require responses from bishops, theologians, canonists and lay ecclesial ministers themselves as this new reality continues to unfold.
In part three, Bechtle, S.C. sees the saints as...