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Report: Lay Ecclesial Ministry Summit


Bishop Richard J. Malone, Chair, Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth
June 10, 2015

Thank you, Archbishop Kurtz.  Good afternoon, brother bishops.

I am grateful for the opportunity to share with you a brief report on the Lay Ecclesial Ministry Summit, which took place on Sunday and Monday this week here in St. Louis. This was a joint initiative of four committees: the standing Committees on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth; on Cultural Diversity in the Church; and on Doctrine; and the Subcommittee on Certification for Ecclesial Ministry & Service.

As you know, 2015 marks the tenth anniversary of our pastoral document on lay ecclesial ministry, Co-Workers in the Vineyard of the Lord. Co-Workers was approved by the body of bishops as “A Resource for Guiding the Development of Lay Ecclesial Ministry.” It focuses on a smaller subsection of the laity engaged in church ministry that is characterized by authorization to serve publicly in the Church, leadership in an area of ministry, close mutual collaboration with the pastoral ministry of the ordained, and appropriate preparation and formation.

On this anniversary occasion of Co-Workers, our committees gathered over 35 bishops including Archbishop Kurtz and Cardinal DiNardo, our Conference President and Vice President, with 20 representatives of national ministry organizations and 30 academic leaders and lay ministry experts, along with staff from the Conference.

We gathered for three reasons:

  • First, to assess the experience of the past ten years since Co-Workers was released.
  • Second, to identify best practices and emerging trends in lay ecclesial ministry.
  • Third, to recommend potential future directions.

All of this was done in the larger context of advancing the co-responsibility of all the faithful for the Church’s mission of evangelization. We are grateful that the Summit yielded fruitful conversations between the bishops and the pastoral and academic leaders, and that we were able to accomplish the goals we set out to achieve.

As our opening keynote speaker, Cardinal DiNardo emphasized the foundational importance of mission, citing Pope Francis that the Church is called to be “permanently in a state of mission.” The Cardinal also highlighted some of the new or growing realities which need further attention, including the rich cultural diversity that exists among the faithful; the influx of ecclesial movements, lay associations and new communities and their paths of formation; and the young adults and younger generations in lay ecclesial ministry who hunger for further spiritual formation and a “contemplative dimension of discipleship.” We’re grateful to the Cardinal for helping set the stage so well for us.

We also heard compelling presentations from a variety of experts and pastoral leaders, including Archbishop Wester who shared his experience of the development of Co-Workers. These presentations helped us engage the various dimensions of Co-Workers in a renewed way.

A special moment of the Summit was a tribute to Francis Cardinal George, who was scheduled to speak at the Summit before his recent passing. He was a leader in the development of the theology and practical applications of lay ecclesial ministry, so we took time to honor his legacy and explore his understanding of this emerging field of church leadership. It was my privilege to share a few of the Cardinal's own insights and reflections that witness to both the theological depth and pastoral commitment he brought to this reality.

In concluding the Summit, Bishop Flores (chairman of the Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church), Bishop Quinn (chairman of the Subcommittee on Certification for Ecclesial Ministry and Service), and I addressed the participants by exploring possible next steps that our committees will consider in light of the Summit conversations.  And we were most grateful for Archbishop Kurtz’s closing remarks which were a fitting end to a very productive meeting.

As we move forward, to ensure that more voices from you, our brother bishops, are heard, we recorded the Summit sessions and will make those available to you shortly.  We welcome your feedback once you have had an opportunity to view them.

Our committees will look at all the feedback from the Summit discussions and any additional input you provide, and consider how the Conference might assist in advancing the conversation on and development of lay ecclesial ministry over the next several years. We look forward to keeping you updated as the work progresses.

Lastly, a word of thanks to all who made the Summit possible and contributed their time and presence. I’m especially grateful to the generous support of the Catholic Apostolate Center and The Raskob Foundation. In a particular way, on behalf of our committees, I thank all those lay women and men who love and serve the Church so well and who, with generous hearts, have responded to the call to lay ecclesial ministry in order to advance the mission of the Gospel and help all the lay faithful become missionary disciples.

Archbishop Kurtz, if time allows, I would be happy to receive any questions or comments.

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