Called and Chosen: Toward a Spirituality for Lay Leaders

By Corr, Mary Ann | Momentum, September/October 2007 | Go to article overview

Called and Chosen: Toward a Spirituality for Lay Leaders


Corr, Mary Ann, Momentum


Called and Chosen: Toward a Spirituality for Lay Leaders Edited By Zeni Fox and Regina Bechtle, SC Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., Lanham, Md. 2005, 96 pages, $22.95 (paper)

Zeni Fox and Regina Bechtle, SC, have gathered essays from 13 education and formation leaders, including themselves, who from their respective leadership pinnacles recognize the reality of lay leadership in the Catholic Church's institutions today and identify the necessary focus of the essence of personal and institutional spirituality.

The chapters in "Called and Chosen: Toward a Spirituality for Lay Leaders" are carefully presented around four themes that spiral more deeply as the different but related roles of the lay leader and the institution are reviewed.

The first three chapters of Part I by Zeni Fox, Michael Downey and Monsignor Richard M. Liddy are presented under the topic of The Person of the Leader. Chapters four through six by Monika K. Hellwig; Doris Gottemoeller, RSM; and Elinor Ford relate to the teaching, healing and serving ministries of the church and form Part II, The Mission of the Church and Institutional Ministries.

Spirituality is the lens through which church institutions are viewed in Part III, The Spiritual Life of Institutions. Chapters seven, eight and nine are contributions of Brian O. McDermott, SJ; Regina Bechtle, SC; and Sean Peters, CSJ. In Part IV, reflection on this same topic, spirituality, is developed in The Role of the Spiritual Leader. Within chapters 10 through 13, Dolores R. Leckey; John S. Nelson; Mary Daniel Turner, SNDdN; and Margaret Benefiel find that the opportunities for a deepening spirituality are "all in a day's work."

The kernel idea of this book blossomed in the 1970s when Zeni Fox listened to a group of lay directors of religious education who were her students claim their "sense of being called" by God to their work in the church. In a national survey that was used in Fox's dissertation, she determined that this "sense of call" by respondents was again prevalent. She gives many examples of other lay leaders who listened to their "call by God" and later recognized it as a vocation.

Michael Downey's defining of spirituality as connected to "the whole of one's life in response to the gift of God in Jesus Christ through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit" (p. 17) is developed carefully throughout his chapter. Downey also gives examples of people who have helped to satisfy the mission in "service to the reign of God" (p. 27).

Monsignor Liddy continues the focus on mission that Downey developed but emphasizes the "invisible mission of the Holy Spirit, who teaches us the meaning of Jesus' life and words" (p. 35).

Monika Hellwig notes that after Vatican II Catholics recognized the call for lay leadership at the same time that numbers for the clergy and vowed religious declined. She also gives credit to lay leadership for the current comprehensive social teaching promulgated by the church.

In a brief 11 pages, Doris Gottemoelller, RSM, gives an inspirational history and legacy of Catholic institutional ministries, beginning in the early republic of 1776-1840 with Bishop John Carroll's first boys school at Georgetown in 1791, through the Civil War, the Industrial Age, the growth of Catholic institutions into the mainstream and concluding in the post-conciliar era. Gottemoeller challenges lay leaders to carry this legacy into the future.

The focus on the structures, mission and vision of the Catholic educational system is presented by Elinor Ford, who has been inspiring Catholic school educators for many years. She notes at the conclusion of her chapter, "Those who lead Catholic educational institutions must be well versed and passionately engaged in their own specific educational endeavors" (p. 81). One only need model Elinor in being well-versed and passionate, although in her final comment she reminds us that Jesus states simply and profoundly, "I am the vine. …

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