(On November 6, 2010, I was one of six people commissioned in the Roman Catholic Church as a Lay Ecclesial Minister for the Diocese of Lansing, Michigan. Below are my thoughts on this commissioning.)
What does it mean to be commissioned as a Lay Ecclesial Minister? Does it mean a job promotion? A pay increase? More, or different, work?
If none of these things are the result of being commissioned, it might be easy to wonder why anyone would bother, but what you have to keep in mind is that the genuine spiritual work of the church cycles outside the realm of position and power. Its true focus is spreading God’s Word and drawing others to Christ.
That work can take place within a variety of ministries. Some people work in religious education, others in pastoral ministry, and often the two overlap, but no matter the ministry to which one is called, one thing is definite: their authenticity comes from the Church.
The significance of being commissioned as a lay minister in the Church is the public acknowledgment that the authority of the Church is the body sending us forth, because it is the Church that holds the responsibility of passing on the teachings in truth. To protect the integrity of the truth, it is necessary to be assured that those who formally teach and minister live faith-filled lives, are passionate for the Gospel, and reflect by their formation and experience, the capacity for ministry.
At a time when independence seems to reign and so many people are turning away from organized religion, it is important to be reminded once again that God revealed himself in scripture and tradition and the passing on of the faith is not something we do apart from the Church. So many people today identify themselves as “spiritual” but have no connection to a teaching body. Left to their personal interpretations, it is easy to fall off track.
But just think how unreasonable this is! For example, how many of us would go to a doctor who is unconnected to any medical association, or is untrained in foundational diagnostic skills? That would be ridiculous, wouldn’t it? So why then, do so many people assume that it is beneficial to their spiritual health to separate from those who are the spiritual equivalent of their doctor and move forward on their own self-proclaimed expertise? Why is it so hard for us to admit that, maybe, we are not a scripture scholar, a moral theologian, or even a historian on church history? Isn’t it important—as we typically do in secular work—to acknowledge that others may be more informed than us?
The teaching authority of the church is the Magisterium—the Pope and the Bishops in union with him. From that authority comes authenticity, great integrity for the truth of the teachings passed down through the Apostles by Jesus. That is important and especially needed today.
So why become a Lay Ecclesial Minister today? Because it is time for lay members of the church to step up to their responsibility for spreading the Gospel, for living lives worthy of emulation and for re-connecting to the church that leads unwavering by the cross of Christ.
My prayer is that the Holy Spirit will continue to call others—even YOU—to ministry and service in the Church.
P.S. I welcome your comments or questions . . .