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All ministry belongs to community of all baptized, theologian tells lay ministers
By Albert de Zutter
Catholic Key Editor

0611LayMin.jpg
Albert de Zutter/Key photo
Richard Gaillardetz confers with mistress of ceremonies Jean Marie Hiesberger at the Hyatt Regency June 5.
KANSAS CITY - While the Second Vatican Council did not say a great deal about lay ministry, a theology of lay ministry can be derived from the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, according to Richard R. Gaillardetz, professor of Catholic Studies at the University of Toledo.

Speaking June 5 to more than 660 participants at a special Institute on Lay Ministry held at the Hyatt Regency in conjunction with the 28th annual Conference of the National Association for Lay Ministry June 3-6, Gaillardetz said the liturgy expresses "who we are as church."

"We are a corporate people," he said. "The liturgy of the people is presided over by the bishops."

The day-long institute, sponsored by the Catholic Community Foundation in Kansas City, focused on the historical and theological roots of lay ministry.

"The primary ordering of the church is baptism," Gaillardetz said. That realization led the fathers of Vatican II to place the chapter on the People of God ahead of the chapter on the hierarchy, he said.

The liturgy expresses a threefold unity, he said: communion with God; communion with our brothers and sisters in the church, and communion with the world in the church's call to mission.

The liturgy is both hierarchic and communal, he said. The bishop-presider is a part of the community. "Hierarchy" refers to the sacred ordering of the church, signifying that the church is ordered and not anarchic. But while it is ordered, it is not pyramidal, a concept that the late Cardinal Yves Congar once called "the hierocratic church."

In the threefold calling of the church, some are called to ordained ministry, Gaillardetz said, recalling an intervention by a father of the council who said, "Remember that Holy Orders does not erase our baptismal character," and a quotation from St. Augustine: "When I am frightened by what I am for you, I am consoled by what I am with you."

Each council sets the agenda for the next council, Gaillardetz said. "Nicea had to be completed by Constantinople. Vatican I had to be completed by Vatican II." And while much of Vatican II awaits implementation, it nevertheless already points to questions leading to the next council.

"We need a theology of ministry grounded in the community," he said. The bishop is related to the assembly and, as the leader of the church community, "should receive the testimony of the people before he can be an effective teacher."

One of the "tamest" passages in the Constitution on the Liturgy states that servers, readers, commentators and members of the choir also exercise a genuine liturgical ministry, Gaillardetz said. The mission of the church extends to all ministries, he said. Recent documents concerned with making distinctions and preserving functions to the presbyterate fall victim to the zero-sum fallacy, he said, as though in raising up other ministries "we diminish that of the ordained."

The liturgy is not merely "an oasis of grace" or a resting place for Catholics, Gaillardetz said. "We are sent forth in the liturgy. It sends us out into the world," he said.

In the liturgy we enact God's reign, he said. "We act as if the reign of God is at hand." We are then sent forth to "the liturgy after the liturgy." That mission is enacted when, at the end of the Mass, the presider leads the assembly into the world.

"The whole church processes out," he said. "The whole church exists for no other purpose than to be sent into mission."

Gaillardetz concluded with three proposals:

  • In discerning vocations to the priesthood, "we ought to discern vocations to the episcopate." The church needs to look for people who exhibit charisms of leadership, he said. His general impression is that in qualifying candidates for the seminary, "while the ideal should be to discern charisms, we discern impediments. We ordain them if there is no obstacle to their ordination."

    He said recent episcopal appointees appear to exhibit five characteristics: they are proteges of an influential hierarch; they have a Roman degree; they have curial experience or they come from a seminary background, and they have "never publicly written or spoken anything against magisterial teaching or policy."

  • The church ought to develop rituals to recognize various ministries with installation and commissioning ceremonies.

  • Recognizing that all ministry exists to serve the mission of the church, entire church communities need to be involved in praying and discerning for ministry and engaged in evangelizing.

    "When we gather, we enact who we are as a church - in service of our fundamental mission to bring Christ into the world," he said.

    END


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