Church Ministries and Minister of Service Formation
The Catholic Church is exploring a much wider range of multiple ministries done by various members of the Church. Up until the Vatican Council, only ordained and vowed religious sisters and brothers were considered to be doing official “ministry.” Throughout the Twentieth Century, however, a number of quiet movements of lay persons emerged, variously called Sodality, Catholic Workers, Catholic Students, and Catholic Action. They were described as “lay people helping the Hierarchy in the Hierarchy’s service to the Church.”
The bishops of the Vatican Council decided to give explicit affirmation and support to lay participation in the work of the Church, not as delegates of the Hierarchy, but acting in their own right as baptized members. They decided to return the Diaconate as a permanent ministry. They hoped that these so-called “lay deacons” would inspire many lay members of the Church to step up and take their rightful place as co-ministers in the life of the Church. (But these deacons are ordained, so they are not really “lay” anymore; they are now part of the hierarchy.)
Note that not every random act of kindness is a ministry – every Christian is called to give food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, comfort to the sick and imprisoned. “Ministry” is a formally recognized action to publicly do some work of the church, in the name of the Church. Recently the American Bishops have set out guidelines for formal lay ministry in the name of the Church:
1. The proper authority (the bishop of a diocese, the pastor of a parish) should determine that the Church needs a certain type of service; e.g., to run a soup kitchen as a part of the parish’s mission in the community. Note that all the volunteers who staff the soup kitchen are not ministers – they are simply doing what followers of Christ should do. The Director of the soup kitchen is doing a ministry.
2. An individual member must be qualified by natural talent to do a specific ministry; e.g., a person who stutters would not be qualified to be a Lector, but he or she might be able to be a Communion minister – unless the stutter was so bad that he or she could not say, “The Body of Christ” in a timely manner. In that case a person who desires to serve the Church might offer to do some other ministry, such as to be a parish sacristan.
3. There should be a formal training program, suited for each particular ministry. For example, people who teach religion need to take 27 two-hour classes, approved by the bishop. We often settle for a bare minimum, such as a single walk-through to prepare a person to be a communion minister. Actually all prospective ministers should enroll in some course of formal instruction, so they have a deeper understanding of their status as baptized persons formally serving the Church. The 10 two-hour sessions offered by the Ministers of Service program is one such general overview of the Church’s practices and ministries. It is not practical to demand that all parish ministers retroactively do a formal program of formation, but beginning now, and on into the future, everyone who desires to be a minister should engage in an appropriate organized program of formation.
4. There needs to be a public calling and installation so the whole parish (or even the diocese) knows that these particular members are now commissioned to serve the community in the name of the Church.
With this in mind, our 5 Year Strategic Plan (particularly Goal 5) strongly promotes lay ministry and formation.
Broaden lay ministries:
7.3 Better utilize the time and talents of parishioners.
5.3a Publish roles & responsibilities of parish staff, parish council, commissions, committees.
5.4 Call & raise up racially diverse individuals to various parish roles, especially those visible to the congregation.
5.5 Create opportunities for people to lead religious activities.
5.6 Orient new members into commissions and committees, adding at least three new members per year.
6.5 Create a human resource bank for school to access parishioners’ expertise.
1.1 Establish Christ the King Service Corps.
Provide sufficient formation for these ministries:
5.2 Ensure that ten people participate in lay ministry programs each year.
5.1 Explore Ministers of Service program, enrolling interested parishioners as soon as August 2010.
5.3b Provide information about the preparation required and experience desirable for positions such as pastoral minister, choir director, outreach coordinator, maintenance, etc.
The Sunday Eucharist is the ritualized celebration of the whole life of the Church. The Church worships God the Father, lives by the teachings and life of the Incarnate Word of God, and inspired by the Holy Spirit serves one another and the whole community. Therefore prayer, word and service are ritually enacted at the altar by the entire community, led by various ministers of the Church. When a parish sees a particular need, and persons with specific talents step forward, these persons enroll in an approved formation program, and are publicly commissioned in the midst of the assembly (steps 1, 2, 3 & 4 above). Thereafter these ministers are called upon to serve the church’s needs. Every Sunday at Mass, representative individuals (a priest, deacon, lector, minister of the altar, etc., but not all the ministers) serve at the altar to dramatize that many members of the community are dedicated to service. Since we are a multi-cultural parish we need to make sure that members of all of our cultural groups are represented in works of service, and are visible at the altar on Sunday. We want to make it visually obvious to anyone who comes to mass on Sunday, even a first-timer, that all cultures and races are welcome here and are active in the parish leadership here.
We need to be more explicit with our commissioning practices. New ministers should be formally installed. All ministers should be re-dedicated in a systematic way (probably annually) because these ministries are not necessarily permanent or for life. Everyone in ministry should regularly consider this question: “Is this particular service still my best response to God’s call? Or is it time for me to consider a more appropriate ministry?” Some “invisible” ministries (such as taking communion to the sick) should have a more visible way of doing their service (such as approaching the altar at the end of communion with their pyx, and then dramatically leaving the church on their sacred mission).
As we promote the Minister of Service program we are doing three things:
Some Ministers of Service will have a specific public ritual along with the priest and deacon, wearing a vestment (alb) and wooden cross. We have tried to craft the ritual role in a truly significant and useful way (the ten items described above). This ritual role at the altar entails a fair amount of specialized ability, training and responsibility.
All public ritual Ministers at the Altar will commit to do other ministries (just as the deacon and the priest do) besides the liturgical ritual. They will need to participate in whatever specialized program of formation is aimed toward each of these other ministries, which might not be covered in the ten-session Minister of Service program.
Some Ministers of Service will not serve in the ritual capacity during Sunday Mass, but will be doing other ministries (such as hospital visitation, St. Vincent de Paul work, Red Cross First Responder ministry, etc.). There are multiple ministries, each one uniquely tailored for their specific purpose, but all from the same Spirit.
As the ten-week Minister of Service program concludes, we have three important gatherings:
Everyone should be explicit about their intended ministry, and the Pastoral Team will formally accept each person into that particular ministry that the Church needs; we will decide on the symbols for each ministry.
Those who will be serving at the altar, vested, on Sunday mornings, will participate in what is called the “installation ceremony.”
Everyone who participated in the Minister of Service program will be commissioned at a Parish Mass at 10:00. At our parish commissioning no one will be vested in albs but everyone will be wearing the distinctive wooden cross, and each one will receive some unique symbol of their intended ministry; e.g., a Catechist might receive a text book or the catechism, a communion minister for the sick might receive a pyx, a lector a bible, etc.
As mentioned above, not every Minister of Service serves on the altar. There are several serving on other ministries and in areas that are of interest to them. We are in the fourth year of our Strategic Plan and we are ahead of our stated goal for the number of parishioners to go through the Ministers of Service program.
While achieving a stated goal is important, we realized that the quality of service is more important than the quantity of parishioners to go though the program. We have therefore established a formal group which will meet once a quarter to discuss issues, concerns and other opportunities to serve with an emphasis on enhancing our spirituality. A matrix of ministries has been created to track where each of the Ministers of Service are now serving and will be updated on a regular basis along with a summary and a chart (click on the links below to view).
So if you are considering doing the Ministers of Service program or are not sure yet, please talk with someone who has gone through the program and gain some insight on their experience. Then consider what you would want to get out of the program, pray about it and see if it is something that you may want to do.
Training for the Ministers of Service program is administered by the Detroit Catholic Pastoral Alliance. To find out more about the Detroit Catholic Pastoral Alliance (DCPA) Click Here .
Ministers of Service Ministries Matrix
If you would like to view this as a PDF document click here: Ministers of Service Ministries Matrix_93014
Ministers of Service Ministries Summary
If you would like to view this as a PDF document click here: Ministers of Service Ministries Summary_93014
Ministers of Service Ministries Chart
If you would like to view this as a PDF document click here: Ministers of Service Ministries Chart_93014
Ministers of Service Schedule
If you want to view the schedule click here: Ministers of Service Schedule