What is Lay Ecclesial Ministry
In 2005, in the document, "Co-Workers in the Vineyard of the Lord," the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops defined Lay Ecclesial Ministry as that service to the Church by lay men and women which is characterized by:
- Authorization of the hierarchy to serve publicly in the local church
- Leadership in a particular ministry
- Close mutual collaboration with the pastoral ministry of bishops, priests, and deacons
- Preparation and formation appropriate to the level of responsibilities that are assigned to them (at page 10).
In the Archdiocese of Chicago, the roles of pastoral associate and director of religious education have been designated as "...the roles that most clearly exemplify lay ecclesial ministry." ("Co-Workers" at page 11.)
Pastoral associates and directors of religious education are eligible to participate in a Rite of Calling to Lay Ecclesial Ministry by the Archbishop after they complete a certification process. In the rite, the ministers commit to collaboration with the pastors of the Church and to leading Christ's people in love and fidelity. A pastoral associate called as a lay ecclesial minister is commissioned to the parish of employment by a letter from the Archbishop.
Directors of religious education are certified through the Office for Catechesis and Youth Ministry. The requirements for certification as a pastoral associate are outlined below.