Saint John’s School of Theology-Seminary leading the way in lay ministry

Aug 12, 2014 | Pastoral Excellence Network


The Pastoral Excellence Network (PEN) is pleased to announce the award of a grant to Saint John’s School of Theology-Seminary in Collegeville, MN, to support their new initiative, Advancing the Excellence of Roman Catholic Lay Ecclesial Ministers. This project is an extension of work begun almost a decade ago with the release of the U.S. Catholics Bishops pastoral letter on lay ecclesial ministry, Co-Workers in the Vineyard of the Lord: A Resource for Guiding the Development of Lay Ecclesial Ministry. The PEN grant will allow Saint John’s to host three gatherings with partners to explore what has been learned in the past ten years, which can contribute to future efforts to develop and sustain excellence among lay ministers.

A recipient of Lilly Endowment’s Sustaining Pastoral Excellence grants, Saint John’s has provided national leadership in advancing the authorization and certification of lay ecclesial ministers and partnered with lay ecclesial ministers and leaders of lay ministry formation programs to offer two national symposia. The symposia resulted in commitments by participating organizations to focus on specific actions to strengthen the formation of lay ecclesial ministers and advance their recognition as integral to the leadership of the Church.

The PEN grant will further this work as Saint John’s convenes three structured conversations to be held in Collegeville, all based on Co-Workers but each with a distinct focus: An Intergenerational Assessment of Lay Ecclesial Ministry; Toward Canonical Considerations for Lay Ecclesial Ministry; and Imaging the Experience of Lay Ecclesial Ministry. Among other outcomes, it is intended that the project will produce results that can be useful to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops as it considers revising and reissuing Co-Workers in the Vineyard of the Lord. Results will also serve as resources to local dioceses, organizations, seminaries/school of theology, and ministers as they continue the conversations in their own settings.

In the first conversation, lay ecclesial ministers will engage in conversations centered around Co-Workers, interpreted in light of their experience. The results of the conversation will be a synthesis of best thinking and practices, and these will be disseminated through the social media outlets of the School of Theology-Seminary as well as made available to the organizations which have partnered with the School through the national symposia. The results will also be a resource for planning the third national symposium for lay ecclesial ministry to be held in 2017.

In the second conversation, key partners will interpret data related to the existing conditions of employment of lay ecclesial ministers from their social and ecclesial contexts, exploring ways to insure that critical insights find their way into the deliberations of dioceses and of partnering organizations.

The third conversation will be in the form of a retreat to capture the stories of lay ecclesial ministry through imagination. Using visio divina and The Saint John’s Bible, the retreat will link stories of ministry with the great stories of scripture and will be expressed in artistic form. The results will be part of a fourth Illuminating Ministry journal.

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