What is “lay ministry” in the Catholic Church?
The term “lay ministry” often refers to an official type of service within the Church that was once called “minor orders”.
Since Vatican II, the Church has talked a lot about different types of “lay ministry»Within the Catholic Church.
What does it mean and where does it come from?
In this context, lay ministry in the Catholic Church is a type of official service, where a local bishop institutes one person for one specific role.
This role is normally preceded by several years of training to prepare for this service.
Previously, this type of service was called “minor orders”, and Pope Paul VI explained the story behind this office in his apostolic letter. Ministeria Quaedam.
Certain ministries were established by the Church even in ancient times for the purpose of properly worshiping God and for offer a service to the people of God according to their needs. Through these ministries, the offices to be exercised in the liturgy and the practice of charity, deemed appropriate to various circumstances, were entrusted to the faithful. The assignment of these functions has often taken place by a special rite, in which, after the blessing of God has been pleaded, a Christian was established in a special class or rank for the performance of an ecclesiastical function.
Instead of simply being “hired” by the Church for a specific function, the individual was “blessed” so that the grace of God could flow through them.
Over time, these ministries have been called “minor orders” and have been entrusted to men on the path to the priesthood.
Some of these functions, more closely related to the liturgical celebration, have slowly come to be regarded as training in preparation for receiving sacred orders. Accordingly, the offices of bearer, reader, exorcist and acolyte were called minor orders in the Latin Church in relation to the sub-diaconate, diaconate and priesthood, who were called major orders.
However, Pope Paul VI saw an opportunity to revise these “orders” and renamed them “ministries”, opening them up to secular participation.
Reader, acolyte and catechist
Initially, the ministries of reader and acolyte were expanded, but recently Pope Francis added the ministry of catechist.
This refers to a layman who dedicates his life to teaching the faith. (Note that “lay” in any of these three ministries refers to anyone who is not ordained. Members of religious communities are also lay people when it comes to ministry.)
According to Pope Francis, this ministry can be entrusted to those who have received competent instruction and training.
They should also receive biblical, theological, pastoral and pedagogical training to be competent communicators of the truth of the faith and they should have some prior experience of catechesis
This does not mean that catechists will be ordained, because this formation and this commission is not an ordination. This means that many catechists will become more closely linked to the bishop and will receive additional training in order to be able to assist him in his mission of evangelization.