Role of Lay Ecclesial Ministers Faces Study

WASHINGTON, D.C., NOV. 1, 2005 ( U.S. bishops will vote on a document to guide the roles and functions of lay ecclesial ministers in the Church at the prelates’ fall meeting in Washington, Nov. 14-17.

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«Co-Workers in the Vineyard of the Lord: A Resource for Guiding the Development of Lay Ecclesial Ministry» addresses several concerns of lay ministers, a group that now comprises more than 30,000 men and women.

Lay ecclesial ministers are non-ordained people who hold leadership posts within the Church. They work in close collaboration with clergy. Their roles in dioceses, parishes and other institutions include those of chancellor, parish associate, youth minister, religious educator and chaplain.

The document addresses the theological understandings of lay ecclesial ministry and the minister’s relationship to the bishop, priest, deacon and other parishioners.

In 1990, lay ecclesial ministers were on the staff of 54% of U.S. parishes; in 2005, they are on the staff of 66% of parishes. About three-quarters of these parish ministers work full time; 80% are women.

In 1990, religious sisters accounted for 41% of parish ministers; in 2005, they account for 16%.

Some 418 lay men and women care for a parish in the absence of a resident pastor.

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