Lay Ecclesial Ministry

Lay Ecclesial Ministry

Lay Ecclesial Ministry is the relatively new category of pastoral ministers in the Catholic Church who serve the Church but are not ordained. Lay Ecclesial Ministers are coworkers with the bishop alongside presbyters, deacons, and theologians.


Since Vatican II, several ministries that had for a time been predominated by the presbyterate (priests) were returned to the laity, and several new forms of ministry emerged. On one level, the burgeoning awareness of the vocation of the laity as apostles to the secular world and chief stewards of the church's mission as evangelizer has given rise to the term "lay ministry" to describe the active vocation of all the baptized.

On another level, several nonordained people have undertaken roles that immediately prior to Vatican II belonged entirely to the ordained. Programs for the theological education and pastoral formation of laypersons for the purpose in engaging in full-time and often lifelong ministry in the church have blossomed. This "ecclesial" ministry is performed in an official capacity and is subject to the supervision of the hierarchy. Lay Ecclesial Ministers serve as ecclesial ministers in the same vocation as bishops, priests, deacons, and theologians. At the same time they remain first and always members of the laity.

Lay Ecclesial Ministry identifies a broad category rather than a specific job title. It has been adopted by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to "establish a framework to indicate what is common to many roles and responsibilities undertaken by lay persons, for example, Pastoral Coordinator or Moderator of a Parish, Pastoral Associate, Director of Religious Education, Youth Minister, Campus Minister, Hospital Chaplain."

At this time, there are more than ten times as many students preparing in university and diocesan divinity programs for a vocation as Lay Ecclesial Minister as there are seminarians in the United States. In many dioceses, Lay Ecclesial Ministers already account for the majority of the ecclesial and pastoral ministers alongside deacons and presbyters. Lay Ecclesial Ministers currently outnumber presbyters and deacons in parish ministry.


*"Co-Workers in the Vineyard of the Lord: A Resource for Guiding the Development of Lay Ecclesial Ministry" USCCB Publications []

* "Lay Ecclesial Ministry: The State of the Questions" USCCB Publications []

* "Official Standards:National Certification Standards for Ecclesial Lay Ministers." NALM Publications. []

* Fox, Zeni. "New Ecclesial Ministry: Lay Professionals Serving the Church", Sheed & Ward, 2002. []

* "A Prophetic Stance of the Heart: Collaborative Ministry Today", Concerned Catholic Ministers, 2006. []

External links

* USCCB Committee on Laity [ Subcommittee on Lay Ministry]
* [ National Association of Lay Ministry]
* [ Co-Workers in the Vineyard: Online Portal for Lay Ecclesial Ministers]
* [ Concerned Catholic Ministers]

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