Friday, June 20, 2003

Got a lecture in a comments box on lay ministry. Let me assure you that I don't require lectures on this score. I have served in parishes and in dioceses in various capacities for almost 25 years. I was a DRE, have worked in music ministry and liturgy, have taught and organized everything from Vacation Bible School to Baptismal Prep classes to Confirmation to RCIA. I have taught in Catholic schools, have served on diocesan commissions and parish councils, and, of course, have worked in the Catholic press.

Most lay ministers are dedicated Catholics, as the commentor stated. Duh. They wouldn't be working weekends and nights (mostly) for paltry and unjust salaries if they weren't. But they are also mostly "churchy" types. Types who actually enjoy hanging around church, doing church things. To most of them, that is the most fulfilling way to live out their faith. In Church.

Trouble is, most people either don't feel that way or don't have the time to engage in such activities. They are too busy out in the world doing stuff, or they feel as parish programs don't meet their needs.

So here's the disconnect, and a disconnect that's totally opposed to the real spirit of VII, and the spirit of the Gospels:

My parish recently had "Ministry Sunday," as yours probably does once a year or so. It was part of a stewardship appeal, four weeks of preaching about our gifts and how we should use our gifts - to build up the Church.. Which was totally the focus of "Ministry Sunday." Your charism as a baptized Catholic Christian was apparently about using your gifts to build up the parish - not using your gifts to be Christ in your workplace or family or social life.

Granted, it's a symbiotic relationship. Parish programs are supposed to be about strenghtening parishioners to live the gospel out in the world. That would, you would think, be the point of religious ed programs or liturgy committee meetings.

My experience is that the interest and inclinations of those in charge - from clerics to lay employees to volunteers - works against this ideal final result. They are churchy types. They naturally think that the end goal of all Christians is really the same as theirs - to get "involved" in Church, so their heads are usually in that space, rather than in trying to really, really encourage those in their charge to go out and spread the Gospel. Their emphasis, in the end, often comes down to stay here and talk about the Gospel.

An example. Ages ago, when I was in college, I was already a churchy-type in the making. I loved my university campus ministry, and was on the core team that planned everything. (Hi Ed! Hi Meggan!) Our goal was always to get more kids involved in stuff at the center. One of the priests, though, wasn't quite on board with us. He didn't seem to support our activities as much as we liked. Instead, he hung out at the dorms, the fraternity houses, etc, being available to those kids, answering their questions, and not making a big priority of "getting them involved" in anything but going to Mass and maybe a retreat if someone would benefit from it. This priest wasn't perfect, but his example, and his responses to us when we challenged him on this - a simple explanation of what I said above - that not everyone is really into "being active" in Church, and those people need to be reached too, so that they can be better witnesses to Christ in whatever they happen to enjoy "being active" in - has stuck with me lo these many years, and been a very useful check on my own enthusiasms and plans and opinions on what I think the rest of the world should be about.