32. Ministry: Introduction
The focus of this section is on lay ministry within the Church. This is not to deliberately overlook the essential ministries provided by bishop, priests, deacons and religious. Rather, it is to acknowledge that they are unlikely to be looking to find information with regard to their ministries on this website.
Lay ministry within the Church can be divided into two broad categories: liturgical and faith related ministry, and ministry as employees of Catholic organisations. The first category encompasses lay participation in the Eucharist (readers, altar servers, extraordinary ministers of Communion), as well as the wonderful work done by catechists, children’s liturgy coordinators and pastoral chaplains to name just a few examples. The second category covers those ministering as parish secretaries, members of parish committees, diocesan staff and the many lay Catholics who minister in our schools, hospitals and other institutions.
Elsewhere we have looked at the significance of lay ministry outside the Church, as we have discussed the role of all the baptised to witness to their faith in the contemporary world. The proclamation of our faith in all we say and do remains the most important ministry that lay Catholics can perform.
33. Ministry: Parish & Pastoral
In the introduction to this section, we noted the different ministries in which lay Catholics might be involved within the parish and pastoral context. They bring to these ministries the wealth of faith and experience that has led them to willingly participate in their particular ministry. Elsewhere, we reflected on how an individual, or a parish, might go about discerning the various ministries individuals might be called to (see ‘Living Your Faith: Gift Discernment’) and we referred to the contribution that the ‘Called and Gifted’ program might offer to this process of discernment.
Here we simply make the point that there can be an unhelpful functionalism in our approach to our ministry. Rather than see it as our response to an invitation from God to serve his people, we reduce it to a series of tasks to which we attend to the degree that we have the time. Instead of being a faith-filled experience where the one ministering puts him or herself at the service of God for the building up of the body of Christ and advancement of the Church’s mission in the world, it is quickly emptied of any spiritual component at all.
This highlights the need for a deep and sustaining relationship with God. It also means that any person ministering on behalf of the Church, in whatever capacity, must seek to deepen their understanding of their ministry (faith formation) and know what it means to become evermore responsive to the action of the Holy Spirit (personal prayer, spiritual reading, retreats etc.).
34. Ministry: Youth
The Catholic Church in the Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn has long had a commitment to ministry to Catholic youth. The primary way that this has been attended to over the years is by means of the Catholic school system. The expectation is that it is in the school context that young Catholics will be introduced to the teachings of the Catholic faith and to an experience of Catholic practice and spirituality.
However, it has also long been acknowledged that there is only so much that can be achieved within the school context. Parents remain the primary faith educators of their children. Ensuring that their own understanding of the Catholic faith is current and coherent is a big challenge for parents. Too easily we pass on to our children an out-dated or underdeveloped perspective on Church teaching and practice. Again, this is where ongoing attention to personal faith formation and personal prayer becomes essential.
In this Archdiocese we rejoice in the ministry provided to youth and young adults by a variety of groups and individuals. Key among them, and providing essential oversight and coordination, is the Archdiocesan Youth and Young Adults team operating out of the Office of the Archbishop. An indication of the work undertaken by this team and of the services they provide can be accessed here.
35. Ministry: Catechists
The catechists make an important contribution to youth ministry in this diocese. In many ways, our catechists are on the frontline of mission and evangelisation. They go into a number of the government schools in this region, teaching aspects of the Catholic faith to any children who attend their classes.
This Archdiocese offers training and support for catechists through the ministry of the Archdiocesan Catechist Coordinator. An indication of the training and support provided can be accessed here.