Arising from the Collegeville Ministry Seminar II, which brought together practitioners and theologians to discuss the reality of lay ecclesial ministry within the context of the Catholic Church in the United States. The resulting essays, developed in a new and collaborative methodology, are brought together in this volume to discuss this phenomenon, and its impact on the future life of the Catholic Church.
The book represents a landmark set of insights on lay ecclesial ministry on the part of the authors. It also captures and reflects a theological process that represents as consensus of the theology of those gathered for the purpose of pursuing what as come to be a type of new reality in the Catholic community. The voices of the delegates from the sponsoring associations, institutions, and organisations responsible for the formation and support of lay ecclesial ministers are reflected in this volume. These authors articulate their own research, engaged in and listened to the dialogue, and nuanced key points from and for this visionary community gathered at St John’s University, Collegeville, Minnesota. This book serves as a summative document for the Catholic Church in the process of recognising the vocation of the lay ecclesial minister and inviting authorisation as well.
The issue that the book addresses is a pressing one, not only in the United States, but also in the life of the Church worldwide. The development of the presence of lay ministers – as defined by this book – in the life of the Church is not only helpful in terms of the Church’s ability to fulfil it’s mission, but is a right and proper development in the understanding of ministry that is centred on the fulfilling of the mission of the Church. While the Church in the United States has already begun to look a theology and praxis of lay ecclesial ministry – understanding vocation and authorisation of those called to lay ecclesial ministry – their work is very capable of being embraced and engaged with by the Church in other parts of the world, even though it must be recognised that the understanding of lay ecclesial ministry is not yet fully developed (and it must be acknowledged that it may never be!).
I would urge the Catholic Church in Australia – through the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference and other organisations of a similar ilk – to begin to ‘regularise’ the reality of lay ecclesial ministry as an authentic expression of the life of the Church that is focussed on the mission that we have been given. It is necessary now to begin to understand the place of, to recognise and to authorise, those lay members of the Church who are engaged in public ministry “In the Name of the Church”.