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The Church in the 21st Century Center

Spring 2006: Ministry in Catholic Parishes

c21 resources

Spring 2006: Ministry in Catholic Parishes (pdf)

With fewer priests in ministry, many dioceses around the United States face questions about how to sustain the structures of parish life. This issue brings to light many signs of hope: creative pastors working collaboratively with energetic lay persons to foster a vibrant parish life. Resources related to ministry in Catholic parishes today

1. The Holy See

  • Lumen Gentium (1964): The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church. The Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) was convened by Pope John XXIII in order to address how the Catholic Church ought to adapt itself to the modern world. A key question had to do with the roles and relationships among bishops, priests, religious men and women, and lay people, and this document emphasizes the unity of the entire Body of Christ in the mystery of the Church.
  • Apostolicam Actuositatem (1965): The Decree on the Apostolate of lay People. This Vatican II document deals specifically with the role of lay people in the mission of the Church.
  • Gaudium et Spes (1965): The Pastoral Constiution on the Church in the Modern World. This Vatican II document moves away from the view of the Church as an institution removed from the rest of the world. Rather, it offers a model of the Church with responsibility to the world. Catholics are called to understand the "signs of the times" and respond to them in a manner consistent with the gospel.
  • Evangelii Nuntiandi (1975): The apostolic exhortation by Pope Paul VI on the Christian vocation to evangelization in the modern world.
  • Christifideles Laici (1988). Pope John Paul II wrote this apostolic exhortation "On the vocation and the mission of the lay faithful in the Church and in the World" after the 1987 Synod of bishops, twenty years following the Second Vatican Council.
  • Redemptoris Missio (1990) The encyclical by Pope John Paul II on the missionary activity of the Church. Members of local churches are called to share in Christ's mission to all people.
  • Pastores Dabo Vobis (1992): The Apostolic exhortation by Pope John Paul II on the formation of priests today as pastors of the faithful.
  • "On Certain Questions Regarding the Collaboration of the non-ordained faithful in the Sacred Ministry of the Priest” (1997): The instruction issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and other Vatican dicasteries, on the distinction between the lay and ordained vocations.
  • Dies Domini (1998): The apostolic exhortation by Pope John Paul II on the celebration of the Lord's Day in Sunday worship.

2. United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB)

  • “Called and Gifted: Catholic Laity” in Origins 10 (November 1980), p. 369. The document identifies four calls of laity -- to holiness, to community, to mission and ministry, and to adulthood/Christian maturity.
  • “Called and Gifted for the Third Millennium.” (1995) Written fifteen years after "Called and Gifted," this document revisits the themes in light of the growing experience of lay people serving in various capacities in the Church today.
  • “Lay Ecclesial Ministry: The State of the Questions.” (1999) This report from the USCCB responds to Pope John Paul II in his call for attention to the roles of lay people in Church life: "We see a true source of hope in the willingness of a considerable number of lay people to play a more active and diversified role in ecclesial life, and to take the necessary steps to train seriously for this" ("Ad Limina Apostolorum" [January 25, 1997], no. 2, in L'Osservatore Romano, February 5, 1997, English edition).
  • “Co-Workers in the Vineyard of the Lord” (2005): The document on lay ecclesial ministry. In it, the bishops identify the roles that many lay people are currently playing in U.S. parishes.
  • "Revitalizing Our Parishes for Mission" (2005): A pastoral letter by Bishop Curtis J. Guillory of the Diocese of Beaumont, Texas.

3. Related Links

4. Key Studies of the Roman Catholic Church in the U.S.

  • New Parish Ministers: Laity and Religious on Parish Staffs (Philip J. Murnion, National Pastoral Life Center, 1992)
  • Parishes and Parish Ministers: A Study of Parish Lay Ministry (Philip J. Murnion, National Pastoral Life Center, 1999)
  • William D. Dinges et al., Young Adult Catholics: Religion in the Culture of Choice (University of Notre Dame Press, 2001)
  • William D'Antonio et al., American Catholics: Gender, Generations, and Commitment (AltaMira Press, 2001)
  • Lay Parish Ministers: A Study of Emerging Leadership with comparisons to parallel studies published in 1992 and 1999. (David DeLambo, National Pastoral Life Center, 2005)
  • Survey of American Catholics with parallel studies every 6 years since 1987 (Sept 2005 NCR/Gallop poll by DeAntonio, Hoge, Davidson, and Gautier)
  • Dean R. Hoge and Jacqueline E. Wenger, Evolving Visions of the Priesthood: Changes from Vatican II to the Turn of the New Century (Liturgical Press, 2003).

5. Conference on the Roman Catholic Priesthood

  • June, 2005 webcasts