Gathering serves as reminder of local church's faith, vitality - Catholic Courier
Matthew H. Clark Matthew H. Clark

Gathering serves as reminder of local church’s faith, vitality

The 400 people who gathered at the Hyatt Hotel in Rochester Wednesday for our fourth ministerium gathering brought with them a great energy, rich backgrounds and years of experience in pastoral ministry. The Latin term ministerium is one we use to identify the assembly of priests, deacons and laity in our diocese who offer pastoral ministry in the name of the church.

The theme for our session this year was “Spirit Alive: Co-workers in the Vineyard of the Lord.” We wanted to explore the theology supporting lay ecclesial ministers, to deepen our capacity to appreciate the gift such ministry is, and to work to integrate this gift more deeply in the life of our local church.

Our central resource and focal point for the day, was “Co-Workers in the Vineyard of the Lord: A Resource for Guiding the Development of Lay Ecclesial Ministry,” developed by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and published in December 2005. To help us probe this document, we invited Edward Hahnenberg, who teaches theology at Xavier University, and Sister Amy Hoey, RSM, who served as project coordinator of the U.S. bishops’ Lay Ecclesial Ministry Project and the formation of “Co-Workers”.

Sister Hoey and Professor Hahnenberg did us a wonderful service. They are both deeply familiar with the context of “Co-Workers.” They are both excellent teachers. No less importantly, they have a well-informed sense both of the importance of the theme and its significance in the life of the church today.

They reflected on themes of ministry, community, relationships, development of theological understanding and changes in pastoral practice resulting from such development. And, they did that in a way that — rather than being abstract — was concrete, practical and applicable to daily practice. I have been ordained for 45 years but left the meeting today with lines of thought and avenues of prayer that left me grateful to Amy and Ed.

Important as our two guests were to the richness of the day — and they truly were — the very heart of the experience for me was the assembly itself. The women and men who gathered from every part of our diocese were a reminder to me of the vitality, faith and hopeful spirit with which our local church is so richly blessed. Yes, we have our problems to be solved and challenges to be met, no doubt about that. But, to me those problems and challenges pale against the breadth and depth of the gifts with which God has endowed our diocese.

For me, the ministerium was an experience charged with hope. While driving home thinking about the day, I was filled with the realization that the renewal of hope it brought was an extension of the hope-filled days of Pope Benedict’s recent visit to the United States. Our Holy Father demonstrated that he had the gift not only to name and encourage us to deal with the problems and challenges we face, but also that he could do so in a way that generated hope and confidence that we could indeed deal successfully with our challenges.

I think his ability to do that was rooted in two of the themes he touched on frequently while he was among us: 1) that he came to us as father, brother, friend and pastor with a willingness to support us with prayer and encouragement in our continuing journey; and, 2) his firm and frequent but gentle reminders that if our lives and work are not rooted in prayer, they are dust.

My thanks go out to Pope Benedict for his kind gifts. No less do they go out to all of our pastoral ministers for the lively, hopeful witness to give to the Lord.

Peace to all.

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