Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 26, 2000
Lay ministry explosion
Newman institute helps lay workers to serve their parishes
By ANH HOANG
WCR Staff Writer
There were 69 people from all over Western Canada and one from Nova Scotia at the Pastoral Institute for Lay Ministers in Parishes, June 12-16 at Newman Theological College. That would have been an impossible number 20 years ago.
"You would have never seen that many people then," said Father Francis Morrisey, one of the institute's facilitators.
Supplementing Morrisey's discussion on the work of lay ministers in accord with canon law, were talks on bioethics and health care issues by Rebecca Davis Mathias, a professor from Newman and St. Joseph's College. Dan Klingdon, the institute's organizer also led a discussion on adult religious education.
The increasing number of lay people involved in ministries shows the importance their role has achieved in the churches, said Morrisey.
"It is the Church of the baptized, not the Church of the ordained," he said. "One person cannot do all the work."
The importance of a program like this is to introduce and re-acquaint lay ministers in properly performing the work they do in their parish.
"A lot of these people did not have four years of theology," Morrisey said. "They need to be given the knowledge to do the work they do."
Morrisey tried to condense what is normally a two-year program into four days.
A leading expert in canon law and professor at St. Paul's University in Ottawa, Morrisey spoke on pastoral canon law as it relates to the sacraments. From Baptism to the last rites, marriage to divorce, he helped to define the role of the lay ministers in these sacraments.
"They are becoming more important in the Church," Morrisey said. "Particularly if some (churches) don't have priests, they are getting very involved in the day to day."
This is the third year for the institute, said Klingdon. It's designed to help people working in parishes with issues they face everyday, many of them involving marriage and illness.
Another reason is to keep participants up to date.
"They also have an opportunity to network with people from other parishes," Klingdon said. "This is very much a part of making new contacts - to share ideas."
As more lay people become involved in their parish, Morrisey hopes they think of themselves as working in cooperation with their pastor rather than being a substitute.
He outlined a document, a 1997 list of instructions which helped to simplify the principles of the Code of Canon Law, in helping to lay out the roles of lay ministers which should not play into the role of the ordained.
There are certain services only a priest can perform and lay ministers must remember not to cross those boundaries, warned Morrisey. Homilies, the Eucharistic Prayer and the use of oils are reserved for the ordained, Morrisey said.
Ministry is not like a volunteer job anyone can do, Morrisey added. It requires discernment just like any other vocation.
"Just because you want to be in a ministry doesn't mean you have the right to be in one," Morrisey said. "It is not for everyone."