Lay and Religious Parish Ministry: A Study Conducted for the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, 1991

National Pastoral Life Center. Lay and Religious Parish Ministry: A Study Conducted for the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, 1991.

While religious and laity have long been central to parish school faculties, more of them are taking parish positions concerned with religious education, youth, social service, elderly, liturgy, music, and other pastoral ministries. This study is an attempt to learn what factors foster this practice, what obstacles limit it, what conditions seem helpful and which seem harmful to the good of parish ministry and that of parish ministers themselves. According the National Pastoral Life Center's report, "The revolution in ministry has meant parishes with stronger lay, feminine, local, and ministerial dimensions." The study found that lay people, even those who are not paid staff members, now exert increased influence upon parish life. Additionally, lay ministers have enabled parishes to become more sensitive to the needs of sometimes overlooked groups such as women, families, and the elderly. Parishes have become "feminized" not only because many lay ministers are women, but also because middle class parishes have become more concerned with nurturing members than with aiding immigrants in their struggle to advance. Furthermore, parish ministry has become more collaborative. The report indicates that parishes are becoming more "local" because lay ministers are increasingly chosen from among the congregation, thus reducing the parish's dependence on the diocese. The "ministerial" dimension of parish life has increased, according to the researchers, because parishes have come to recognize that all Christians, not just those who are ordained or certified, have the ability and responsibility to minister to each other. Nonetheless, many ministerial positions do require special preparation and differences between those who possess specialized training and those who do not can be a source of tension. Challenges remaining to be addressed include the provision of adequate compensation to lay ministers and the recruitment of members of under-represented groups such as Hispanics and African Americans. Overall, however, the report concludes that the transition to lay ministry has been highly successful. It states that "lay and religious parish ministers have been a great boon to parish ministry." In general, lay and religious ministers have enhanced the quality of parish programs and increased the scope of parish outreach. While all dioceses are not equally hospitable to lay ministry, pastors and parishioners have been supportive, and lay ministers are satisfied in their work. The report notes, however, that as the number of religious in parish ministry declines and the number of lay ministers increases, a more organized, structured approach to the provision of training and support for lay ministers may be required.

Host Organization : 
National Pastoral Life Center