Study of Lay and Religious Parish Ministry

Project Number: 
Start Date: 
Sun, 01/01/1989

The idea for the study "Lay and Religious Parish Ministry," originated at the November 1988 meeting of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops. The bishops, having observed that the number of lay ministers employed by parishes was increasing dramatically, decided that this growing practice deserved formal study. With the assistance of a grant from the Lilly Endowment, the NCCB commissioned the National Pastoral Life Center to examine the roles of lay people and religious in parish ministry. The National Pastoral Life Center's study was composed of five parts. It began with a review of the existing literature on the subject. Then, consultations with people involved in lay ministry were conducted. Surveys were used to determine the extent to which lay ministers were employed and to explore the experiences of lay and religious ministers, pastors, parishioners, and other parish staff members with lay ministry. Finally, representatives of the National Pastoral Life Center made site visits to a carefully chosen, representative sample of fifty-two parishes. Additionally, persons involved in lay ministry and the formation of lay ministers were consulted in order to assist in interpreting the study's results. The findings of the study were disseminated in the National Parish Life Center's report "Lay and Religious Parish Ministry: A Study Conducted for the National Conference of Catholic Bishops with the support of the Lilly Endowment, Inc." The report concluded that "lay and religious parish ministers have been a great boon to parish ministry," but noted the need for a more organized approach to the preparation and provision of support to lay ministers who are not members of religious orders.