Cultural Challenges In Lay Ecclesial Ministry

Cardinal George speaks to symposium participants.

Positive Progress

I had a chance to sit down with several staff members from Instituto Fe Y Vida to talk about what questions the work of the symposium was raising in light of their ministry.  We had an in-depth conversation about the positive progress since the previous symposium in 2007 and how significant advances are contributing to a greater common vision.

Carmen Cervantes is the Executive Director of Instituto Fe Y Vida and shared how pleased she felt that people are more open to cultural diversity and how that sensitivity leads to more productive dialogue and mutual collaboration.  “There is a lot of good work to do to bring people to the level of lay ecclesial ministry” and already we have made great strides.

Also in the video are Ken Johnson-Mondragon, Director of Research and Publications; Walter Mena, Director of Programs; and Roberto Navarro from the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston and representing La Red.

Hope for the Future

Everyone expressed their hope for the future of Latino lay ecclesial ministry, citing how the chance to share stories about a different way of church leads to creating a deeper sense of unity.  We are one church.  We are one Body of Christ.  Language and culture do not separate us but help us to more intimately know each other in Christ as a fuller expression and face of God.

Catechesis in the Farm Fields

One of the greatest challenges this group emphasized is how polarized lay ecclesial ministry can be academically and professionally for Hispanics in ministry.  Many times, formal education and certification programs are not financially feasible or accessible for people who work multiple jobs to support their families.  Catechesis in Latino culture often begins in base communities and Carmen noted “happens in the fields on the farms.”

There is a huge array of settings where lay ecclesial ministers are needed and we cannot expect there to be one way to educate and certify these good people who seek to share the Gospel.  Use this great question posed at the end of this interview to filter your own thoughts and perceptions as you watch these videos:

How can we be church with this large spectrum of realities?

Coming Together is bilingual and divided into four parts.  Take some time to listen to them all.  There is much wisdom in the words of these wonderful, insightful people.

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Bishop Blase Cupich: Advancing Excellence

A Great Opportunity

Bishop Blase Cupich of the Diocese of Spokane described the National Symposium as an important phase in contributing to the request on the part of the bishops for more research and dialogue around lay ecclesial ministry as outlined in the ground-breaking 2005 document Co-Workers in the Vineyard.

“This is a chance to refine the ideas in describing this phenomenon in the Church and is useful because the situation is very fluid.  Co-Workers left the door open for more research and to deal with questions that are still unsettled,” he says in this video interview.

Dare to read the signs of the times.

In his capstone address at the close of the symposium, Bishop Cupich shared some profound insight:

Lay ecclesial ministry is embryonic now and in an in-between time.  That makes us all uncomfortable.  It will require the willingness of this group to wrestle and grapple with the issues and questions.  We will all need to come to acceptance of the fluidity of lay ecclesial ministry.  Perhaps God does not want to give us structures at this time.  Maybe now is about the dialogue, the relationships and knowing each other.  Conversatio is the important goal now.

The movement of the Holy Spirit that I see is in being in-between.  It’s all rooted in the universal call to holiness.

paraphrased from August 5, 2011 Capstone address

Thanks to Bishop Cupich for your wisdom!  The Spirit is alive indeed!

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Somos uno iglesia!

We are one church!

A significant point of discussion has come up in almost every conversation this week… How are we incorporating a multicultural approach and sensitivity into all this work on lay ecclesial ministry?

I talked with Sergio Canjura from the Archdiocese of San Francisco, Carlos Obando from Loyola Marymount University and Martha Nunez from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles to find out how well these concerns are being addressed.  They all agreed that this symposium has been a very important opportunity for dialogue from many faces and many voices.

But our reality is different.

They were also honest in saying that there is much more work to do by the Church as well as lay ecclesial leadership in gaining a truer sense of the reality of ministry with Latinos.  Each talked about how deep the call to ministry is in their hearts and their lives… that it is truly a privilege to serve in the name of the Church.  The challenge is how to use the structures, resources and finances in such a way that all people are served equally regardless of language or ethnic culture.

Sergio said:  “Not everyone who speaks Spanish is an immigrant… we need to give the true face of Latino people.  We are one Church.  We are one Body of Christ.”

Somos uno iglesia!

This bilingual interview is a gift for all.  Take some time to listen to both Part 1 and Part 2.  Then ask yourself:

How am I being challenged to think or act differently?

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Young Adults in Lay Ecclesial Ministry

Questions on the Table

Julie Billmeier serves in Youth and Young Adult Ministries in the Diocese of Dallas.  She is an inspiring young adult herself and has added a wealth of insight and wisdom to the work and conversation at this Symposium.

As we have talked about vocation and authorization at our small group tables, the issue of changing territory and landscapes (video by Bob McCarty yesterday… click here) has raised practical questions for young adults who want to be employed in ministry.

If I go to work for the church as a lay ecclesial minister:

  1. What kind of job stability will I have?
  2. What happens when a new bishop or pastor arrives?
  3. How will I be able to pay for the Master’s degree that is required?
  4. If I get married, what role does my spouse play?
  5. If we have children, how do I balance ministry with family?

These are great questions!

Nature of Relationship-building

In the opening keynote address (click here <—) Dr. Nancy Ammerman highlighted the fact that relationships are built very differently today than they were 20 or 30 years ago.  Social media has transformed the way that people connect and stay in touch.

Listen to Julie as she talks about how that impacts her ministry as a young adult and with young adults.  It’s quite thought-provoking for the current population of ministry leaders and challenges us to change how we approach ministry.  And we need to change if we are going to attract and form a new up-and-coming generation of lay ecclesial ministers.

After you’ve had a listen… come back and leave us a question or comment.

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Dr. Bob McCarty: Changing Territory

We need to change our maps.

“One of the things that has become really clear in this symposium on lay ecclesial ministry is that the territory in which we do ministry is changing rapidly… What this is going to require of us in ministry is that we need to change our ministerial maps.”

Dr. Bob McCarty
Executive Director
National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry

As one of the co-sponsors of the LEM Symposium, the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry brings a wealth of research data to the discussion of the religious / cultural / sociological landscape from the ongoing National Study of Youth and Religion.

In combination with the statistics and conclusions presented by Dr. Ammerman in the opening keynote address, we gain a deeper glimpse into the practical implications and challenges facing lay ecclesial ministry in the coming years.

Engagement and Emotional Connection

In this video clip, Bob discusses research findings from the Pew Forum, Gallup Poll and the National Study on Youth Religion.  Some of the conclusions are predictably obvious and others are shocking and startling.  In order to create emotional connection and investment in faith communities, people need to first have a deep-seated experience of belonging… which then leads to believing.

This is a reversal from the approach to ministry for previous generations and sociological eras where cognitive, intellectual teaching of religion was the first step in formation.  Ministry in this post-modern world must begin with the development of more intimate personal relationships and connections before people will become truly engaged in their faith communities.

Huge questions to ponder…

  1. How does our approach to ministry need to shift in order to help people experience God… not simply learn about God?
  2. What do we need to do differently to better meet people’s spiritual needs?
  3. What new skills and insights will lay ecclesial ministers need to develop to be more effective in this shifting landscape?

Listen to Bob’s wisdom and then add your own comments.  We want to hear what you’re experiencing in this changing territory.

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Vocation and Authorization

What’s all the talk about?

The whole campus has been abuzz with conversation surrounding vocation / authorization / theological points of convergence / challenges and implications.  If you’re on campus and haven’t heard the phrase “lay ecclesial ministry” at least a 100 times, then you weren’t listening.

Preconceptions are shifting.  Attitudes are changing.  Ideas are emerging.  New insights are transforming the conversations and building the foundation for ongoing dialogue.  It is truly an exciting moment in the history of Catholic ministry.

8 Points of Convergence

Dr. Bill Cahoy… Dean of Saint John’s University School of Theology… presented an emerging theology of vocation and authorization in lay ecclesial ministry.  Based on essays from seven theologians… Ed Hahnenberg, Lynda Robitaille, Susan Wood, Graziano Marcheshi, Charles Bobertz, Zeni Fox and Hosffman Ospino… he outlined eight common theological points and set them in the hands of symposium participants for dissection, discussion and a wrestling-grappling-word-by-word-tug-of-war.

Throughout the day, table talk groups listened / questioned / dialogued with the authors and each other to try to come to consensus and endorsement of the eight points of convergence.  It was a gritty and grueling and tremendously enlightening process that led to highly animated conversation across campus.  Listen to these four professors as they share some insight.

Now take a moment to think about these questions and then give us your thoughts in the Comment section on this blog:

  1. How do the concepts of vocation and authorization impact lay ecclesial ministry?
  2. How do they impact a person’s sense of being called to discipleship?

We are excited to hear from you!

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Fr. Tom Henehan: A Maryknoll Priest in Bolivia

Lay ecclesial ministry formation is just as challenging in Bolivia as it is in the United States.  Fr. Tom describes two major challenges of gaining credibility with the priests and bishops and overcoming intercultural tensions.

We focus on the mission as dialogue with the “other” to generate a co-creative relationship where it becomes “our” ideas, not my ideas.

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Dr. Jeff Kaster: Points of Resonance

The challenge of today’s work at the symposium has been described as a “grappling with the risks and rewards regarding authorization in lay ecclesial ministry”.  Through intense discussion, participants have been trying to assess the theological points regarding vocation and authorization that have the most resonance with theologians and pastoral leaders across the country.

Here is Dr. Jeff Kaster, the Symposium Chair sharing some thoughts about the importance of this tremendous undertaking.

What are your thoughts?  Please leave a comment.

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Exploring the Landscape

Religious/Cultural/Sociological Landscapes

Dr. Nancy Ammerman… Professor of Sociology of Religion from Boston University’s School of Theology presented an insightful and thought-provoking look at how the religious, cultural and sociological landscape in the United States is impacting religious leadership.

Three particularly intriguing factors that she elaborated on revolved around these shifting elements in American life:

  • Geographical mobility… primarily related to the fluidity of jobs.
  • How relationships are formed differently today… for example, the impact of social media… which also translates into how people choose churches differently too.
  • Increasing multicultural diversity in the population… which begs us to ask the question… Who are “we” today?

One-Liner Wisdom

In the talk about who is coming to church these days and who is not, she laid out some profound one-line sentences.

Local congregations are more important than ever.

Participation in religious activities matters.

Attendance makes a difference.

Conversations are huge.

Lay ecclesial ministry is essential.

Challenges and Questions

After the keynote, I posed some questions and started rolling the video…

  1. What are the most significant challenges facing lay ecclesial ministry in this post-modern landscape?
  2. What issues or questions do you think need immediate attention?

Listen to these ladies as we chatted… their conversation is deep and their wisdom regarding multicultural ministry enlightening.  Our talk went late into the evening as the sun went down but take time to listen to each part and you will hear some amazing thoughts and ideas.

First, we hear from Teri Nuval from the Archdiocese of Chicago Office for Asian Catholics; then Sr. Joelle Aflague, SSND, Pastoral Assistant for Outreach from St. Joseph’s Parish in Vancouver, Washington; and Cecile Motus from the USCCB Secretariat for Cultural Diversity.

Part 1:  Culture makes a difference.

Part 2:  Leaders should be chosen by the people.

Part 3:  Formation is the key issue now.

Part 4:  Invite us… then be mentors.

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Bishop Kinney: Co-Workers is ground-breaking.

Bishop Kinney from the Diocese of St. Cloud presided at the opening Mass for the 2011 Collegeville National Symposium for Lay Ecclesial Ministry.  He quoted the late Archbishop Pietro Sambi… Apostolic Nuncio to the United States… “This is where God planted me and this is where I shall bloom.”

Bishop Kinney offers some words of encouragement for all lay ecclesial ministers who persevere in the ministry of blooming where they are planted.

Peace and prayers for you all from Collegeville.

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