The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have announced a new document, set to be voted on later this month, which explores the role of Catholic lay ministers in the Church.
The topic had been hotly discussed during the recent General Synod of Bishops in Rome, with some contesting that more attention needs to be paid to lay ministers in light of a priestly shortage in many regions of the world.
The U.S. document, “Co-Workers in the Vineyard of the Lord: A Resource for Guiding the Development of Lay Ecclesial Ministry,” will be voted on at the Bishops plenary meeting in Washington on the 14th through 17th of this month.
The USCCB states that lay ministers compose a group of some 30,000 men and women in the U.S. Church alone. They include diocesan chancellors, youth ministers, religious educators, pastoral associates and chaplains, among other roles.
The document explores theological basis and understanding of the lay roles, and addresses the minister’s relationship with the local bishop, pastor, deacons and parishioners themselves.
Statistics show that the 30,000 member strong group is growing each year and a number far greater than that serve in the name of the Church in Catholic schools, hospitals and other similar organizations.
In this light, the document also addresses proper education and formation for lay ministers so that they can accurately teach the faith in their respective areas of expertise.