In an address to the members of the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life on Saturday, April 22, Pope Francis emphasized the need for laypeople to never become “self-referential” when carrying out their ministries, reflecting on the meaning of ministry in the Church. He pointed out that Church ministries encompass more than just “instituted” ministers such as lectors, acolytes, and catechists.  

As in the first Christian communities, faced with particular pastoral needs, without resorting to the institution of ministries, pastors can entrust certain supplementary functions to laypeople, that is, temporary services, as in the case of the proclamation of the Word of the distribution of the Eucharist.

This focus on service to others and a continual call to laypeople to embrace their calling to be active members of their parishes has been a frequent message of Pope Francis’s papacy. In a February 18, 2023 address to a conference organized by the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life at the Vatican, the Holy Father spoke of the Church as a “home that priests and lay people need to care for together.”

“It is time for pastors and laypeople to walk together, in every area of the Church’s life, in every part of the world,” he remarked.  “The lay faithful are not ‘guests’ in the Church, they are at home, so they are called to take care of their own home.  The laity, and especially women, need to be more valued in their human and spiritual skills and gifts for the life of parishes and dioceses.”

Taking ownership in one’s parish brings a sense of unity, belonging and an investment of each person’s time and talents.  Moving toward a Synodal Church that sees and values each person as a vital resource prompted a series of listening sessions designed to encourage dialogue among the faithful and bring a greater sense of connectedness amongst all members of the Body of Christ, religious and laity alike.

With this comes undeniable challenges as well as invaluable benefits, namely, a more active, intentional, and engaged Church.  For too long, the average Catholic in the pew has been merely a passive participant. But increased participation in the daily life of the Church brings more active and meaningful Christian living.

By calling us all to a fuller participation in the ministries of the Church, Pope Francis affirms our calling as baptized Christians to serve our Lord every day, in the way He calls us:

All of us, even the pastors of the Church, are under the authority of the Word of God.  Not under our own tastes, tendencies, and preferences, but under the one Word of God that molds us, converts us, and calls us to be united in the one Church of Christ.

Image Credit: Vatican Media

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Kristi McCabe is an award-winning freelance writer, Catechist, a former teacher and editor who lives with her family in Owensboro, Kentucky.  As an adoptive mother of four and an adoptee herself, Kristi is an avid supporter of pro-life ministries.  She is active in her local parish and has served as Eucharistic minister and in various children's ministries.

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