Catholic Bishops Beckon to Laity Conference Urges People to Become Church Ministers

Article excerpt

U.S. Catholic bishops are urging more lay Catholics to step forward from the pews and become church ministers. The bishops created no new roles for the laity but encouraged their wider participation.

At their fall meeting Wednesday, bishops approved a document that encourages lay people to use their talents in ministry at the nation's 20,000 parishes.

For more than 1,000 years, such positions were open only to priests. That changed less than 30 years ago, with the Second Vatican Council.

Tens of thousands of lay people are now lay ministers in Catholic churches, where the most dramatic changes are at the top. More than 30 nuns and lay people are chancellors of U.S. dioceses. More than 300 nuns, lay women and men are parish "coordinators," running parishes without a resident priest. Seven parishes in the Jefferson City diocese are run by lay coordinators; six of them are nuns, and one is a lay woman.

"Our lay leaders are doing excellent; we have no problems," said Bishop Michael F. McAuliffe of Jefferson City. Missouri Catholics have warmly welcomed them, he said. Because of them, he has not considered closing some mid-Missouri parishes.

In contrast, some of the country's dioceses have not welcomed lay people in positions of ministry. Nor have these dioceses formed lay parish or diocesan councils so that lay people can help in making decisions affecting the church.

The nation's bishops are gathered for the 50th general meeting of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops/ United States Catholic Conference.

In other matters Wednesday, the bishops discussed the delicate relationship of Catholic colleges and bishops, approved materials on the role culture plays in evangelizing to Hispanics H and discussed the financing of the U.S. Conference. They approved a 122-page strategy on forming national and parish teams to get more young men to consider becoming priests. …