The chief ministers in the Church are, of course, the Pope, bishops, priests and deacons. In recent years fewer and fewer males are responding to Christ’s call to these vocations and the laity have stepped forward to fulfil the some of priestly functions through the grace bestowed on them in Baptism.
The Vatican II document “Lumen Gentium” confirms the dignity of the laity and their ability and responsibility to share in these duties when called to do so.
“… the faithful who by Baptism are incorporated into Christ, are placed in the People of God, and in their own way share the priestly, prophetic and kingly office of Christ, and to the best of their ability carry on the mission of the whole Christian people in the Church and in the world”. Lumen Gentium (31)
The following are ministries which are being carried out by lay people in some parishes:
EUCHARISTIC MINISTERS. They help distribute Communion, the body and blood of Christ under the appearances of bread and wine to the faithful during Mass.
READERS. They do the first and second readings from the altar during Mass. They also lead the petitions and read any announcements.
ALTAR SERVERS. This can be a ministry for girls and boys usually from Grade Five upwards. They assist the celebrant during Mass and other liturgical services.
MUSIC MINISTRY. These are the people who provide music during liturgies. They include the organist, the choir, choir director, any other instrumentalists or soloists who contribute to the musical component of services.
USHERS. They help people find seats when the church is crowded. They take up the collection. They give out envelopes and other materials that need to be distributed while the congregation are seated in the church.
CHILDREN’S MINISTRY. These ministers teach the children’s class which takes place during Sunday liturgy. They help out with summer camp activities if the parish has one. They teach the R.C.I.C. group, (the Rite of Christian Initiation for Children) for children who will be joining the church with their parents at Easter.
MINISTRY TO THE HOMEBOUND. These parishoners take Holy Communion to the sick who cannot come to the church. Often this will be an additional duty for the Eucharistic Ministers.
HOSPITALITY MINISTRY. These are the people who help out whenever refreshments are needed. They prepare food and drinks for the “Out of the Cold” program, funeral receptions, and parish celebrations. They often work in conjunction with and in co-operation with the Catholic Women’s League.
YOUTH MINISTRY. This group arranges and supervises activities for teenagers: special Masses, dances, picnics, trips, and community service activities.
These are only a few of the many ministries in operation in a parish church at any given time. Gone are the days when the laity just sat in the pews and prayed and expected the clergy and the Sisters to do all the work. There just aren’t enough nuns and priests to take care of everything any more.
The reformers of Vatican II urged the laity to join in the work of the Church, and that’s probably a good thing. Jesus didn’t allow the disciples to spend all their time in prayer. He sent them out among the people to preach, teach, heal, feed the hungry, and perform other spiritual and corporal works of mercy. It’s only reasonable to assume that he expects us to do the same.
There are a multitude of ministries in your parish church waiting for willing volunteers. Each person has gifts and talents which suit them to work in a particular ministry. Where do you fit in?