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CLSA to Co-Sponsor the National Symposium on Lay Ecclesial Ministry

Wednesday, July 20, 2011   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Katie Richards
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Representatives of 41 organizations, associations, federations, institutions of higher learning and other ministries will gather on the campus of Saint John’s University School of Theology Seminary in Collegeville, MN August 2 through August 5 for the 2011 Collegeville National Symposium on Lay Ecclesial Ministry (for more information, see:

These 41 symposium co-sponsors share a common goal: to advance excellence in lay ecclesial ministry by increasing the Church’s theological and pastoral understanding of the vocation and authorization of lay ecclesial ministers.

But why do they make this commitment? What motivates them to promote lay ecclesial ministry within the church? Their motives are as varied as their missions.

Sr. Sharon Euart, RSM, executive coordinator of the Washington, D.C.-based Canon Law Society of America (CLSA), says that excellent formation for lay ecclesial ministry is essential, including formation in canon law. A primary purpose of the CLSA, according to its constitution, is to promote the pastoral ministry of the Church.

"Canonical formation for lay ecclesial ministers, including knowledge of church structures and the law, is a vital component of the CLSA’s educational efforts,” she says. "It is our hope that the Society will become a more visible and effective resource for pastoral ministers, particularly pastoral associates and parish life coordinators.”

Peter Noll, executive director of the Minnesota Catholic Education Association (MCEA), is on that same page of promoting excellence in ministry.

"MCEA has designed and implemented a certification process for lay ecclesial ministers because it is our belief that a rigorous, relevant and comprehensive professional review process by a qualified evaluative team is an effective method of ensuring competency in the field,” Noll says.

"The promotion of lay ecclesial ministry at Franciscan University of Steubenville is vital both for the University and for our students,” says Stephen Hildebrand, associate professor of theology at the Ohio-based university. "We see the formation of students in theology and catechetics as an integral part of a larger mission to the Church and the world.… Lay ecclesial ministry lies near the heart of our mission as a university and as individuals called by God to his service.”

Jean Marie Weber, President of the Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based Association of Graduate Programs in Ministry (AGPIM), praised the United States Catholic Bishops’ 2005 document, "Co-Workers in the Vineyard of the Lord: A Resource for Guiding the Development of Lay Ecclesial Ministry,” which is also the guiding document of the Collegeville National Symposium.

"It is indeed a ground-breaking document that is shaping lay ecclesial ministry in the U.S. Church,” she says. The document has "articulated the key role of lay ecclesial ministers in the Church on the U.S. and beyond, reaffirms the call of the laity and invites all to re-define the vocation of the Catholic Christian in the world,” Weber adds.

Fr. Richard Vega, president of the Chicago-based National Federation of Priests' Councils (NFPC), and NFPC public liaison Alan Szafraniec view lay ecclesial ministry, understandably, from the perspective of the clergy.

"One cannot deny the shortage and graying of clergy in our country,” the two NFPC representatives say. "Bishops have sought to strengthen the number of priests within dioceses with the assistance of international clergy. A burgeoning Catholicimmigrantpopulation means more ministers are needed so that parish communities remain vibrant.” A single priest in a parish is now normative, they note, or a number of parishes share a priest under the title of pastor.

"To maintain one's own sanity and sense of balance, priests will need to rely on the assistance and collaboration of lay ecclesial ministers to respond to the varying needs of God's people. Alone, a priest will be unable to feed the flock that has been entrusted to his care,” they add.

But the church has hope and confidence, according to Fr. Vega and Szafraniec, that in the face of this challenge lay ecclesial ministers "will truly become ‘Co-workers in the Vineyard of the Lord.’ ”

Linda Stryker, director of religious education for St. Margaret Mary Parish in Omaha, Nebraska, serves as a publicity liaison between the symposium and the National Catholic Young Adult Ministry Association, with offices in Washington, D.C. and Chicago. The promotion of lay ecclesial ministry is necessary so that the best possible candidates are selected for roles in parish catechetical leadership, she says.

"Also, it is essential we have charismatic and well-formed catechetical leaders to help people to develop a relationship with Jesus,” Stryker adds."Our church is going to decrease if we can’t keep up with the secular world.”


As a co-sponsor for the symposium, the CLSA will have four participants in the symposium: Rev. James Donlon, Mrs. Rita Joyce, Mrs. Siobhan Verbeek and Ms. Zabrina Decker. In addition Ms. Lynda Robitaille is a member of the Planning Committee.

Prior to the symposium, several co-sponsoring organizations presented webinars designed to inform and engage symposium participants with major research and work related to lay ecclesial ministry: 1) Emerging Models/CARA Research; 2) The Alliance and their work towards national certification; 3) Cultural Competencies; and 4) The Collegeville Ministry Seminar II.

The CLSA is pleased to be part of this important national endeavor and wishes the participants a successful and productive experience.

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