Lay Ecclesial Ministry

Saint John's School of Theology and Seminary

A 10th Anniversary Celebration of

Co-Workers in the Vineyard of the Lord


Saint John's School of Theology and Seminary has been in sustained conversation over the past fifteen years exploring the development of lay ecclesial ministry. Working throughout the state of Minnesota and on a national level, we have been committed to developing pastoral knowledge, skills, and opportunities for ministers, both ordained and lay ecclesial, to interpret theologically and pastorally the movement of God within the life of the Church.

Minnesota Common Standards for Lay Ecclesial Ministers (1999 to 2003)
In 1999, Saint John's School of Theology and Seminary was awarded a grant by the Lilly Endowment for Sustaining Pastoral Excellence. A portion of this grant funded the development of standards for lay ecclesial ministers in the state of Minnesota. Through the efforts of Dr. Jeff Kaster and Dr. Charlotte McCorqudale three national organizations--National Conference for Catechetical Leadership; the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry; and the National Association for Lay Ministers--began work on a common set of standards for lay ministry in the Minnesota dioceses which was based on the National Certification Standards for Lay Ecclesial Ministers, which was approved by the United States Conference of Bishops' Commission on Certification and Accreditation in 2003.

Collegeville National Symposia on Lay Ecclesial Ministry (2007 and 2011)
In 2007, two years after the USCCB released Co-Workers in the Vineyard of the Lord (Co-Workers), St. John's School of Theology held its first national symposium on lay ecclesial ministry. This first symposium, "Working in the Vineyard of the Lord," was dedicated to responding to the call from the U.S. Bishops to foster communion for Christ's mission by expanding in the study of critical issues facing lay ecclesial ministry and dialoguing about effective ways to support and advance ministry in the Church.
For more information and documents, please visit the site for the 2007 Collegeville National Symposium on Lay Ecclesial Ministry

In 2011, a second national symposium was held to advance the national will for the authorization and certification for lay ecclesial ministers and to look deeper at the theology of call and vocation of the lay ecclesial minister. Saint John's School of Theology and Seminary convened national partners and theologians to a focused dialogue. The first fruits of this dialogue were theologians testing their theological developments with the experience of lay ecclesial ministers, writing and re-writing as consensus developed. The dialogues were harvested in the book:  In the Name of the Church: Vocation and Authorization of Lay Ecclesial Ministry (Liturgical Press, 2012). Twenty-five national partners, consisting of the USCCB, academic institutions, diocesan offices and national organization were given small grants as requested to continue the dialogue and/or research. One such study that was commissioned was by the Canon Law Society of America (CLSA) through The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA). This study entitledAuthorization of Lay Ecclesial Ministers for Ministry became a primary focal point of dialogue for an event in the 10th year anniversary celebration events in 2015 in Collegeville.
For more information and documents, please visit the site for the 2011 Collegeville National Symposium on Lay Ecclesial Ministry

A Third Lay Ecclesial Ministry Symposium
In January 2014, Saint John's School of Theology gathered national partners in Orlando, Florida to explore the desires and sensibilities of the national partners towards a third national symposium. The Lilly Endowment that sustained the previous fifteen years had ended. If the dialogue was to continue, the financial responsibility would be shared among the partners. It was the consensus of those gathered to move toward a 2017 Lay Ecclesial Ministry Symposium in Collegeville.
Building upon the work of the previous National Lay Ecclesial Ministry Symposia and continuing the efforts at understanding the pathways to, formation for, authorization and certification of, and leadership and collaboration within lay ecclesial ministry, participants will advance, by way of a Third National Symposium, three new goals were established:
1. Intercultural Competency: To engage theological and pastoral reflection on the diverse nature and experience of leadership and community by lay ecclesial ministers in defining pathways and applying standards.
2. Co-Responsibility: To interpret the concept of co-responsibility for the Church in light of the new evangelization and how it informs an understanding of the relationship, mission, and vocation of all the laity, lay ecclesial ministry and the ordained.
3. Advancing the Vision of Co-workers: To gather the wisdom and insight of symposium participants about the advances made by Co-workers and areas for further development to deepen the vision of lay ecclesial ministry in the United States.

10th Anniversary Celebration of Co-Workers
In 2014, the Pastoral Excellence Network funded by the Lilly Endowment offered a small grant to the Saint John's School of Theology and Seminary to mark the 10th anniversary of the publication of Co-Workers. To this end, St. John's School of Theology sought to continue the work begun in the last symposia through a close reading of the research authorized by the Canon Law Society of America.

In November, 2014, a group of 20 lay ecclesial ministers met for a three-day conference to explore Co-Workers through the lens of an "Inter-generational Assessment of Lay Ecclesial Ministry." Aware that perspectives on lay ecclesia ministry change over the course of the lifecycle, the intent of this event was to observe how lay ecclesial ministers with various lengths of experience viewed their role as a lay ecclesial minister in light of the articulated vision in Co-Workers. The group was composed of ministers who had 3 or fewer years, between 4 and 10 years, between 11-10 years, and more than 20 years of ministry experience. From the intergenerational group, the question of how clergy read the Co-Workers document arose. In March of 2015 a day of discussion for priests in Minnesota was held to interpret the Co-Workers document in light of their ministry and in relationship to serving and working with lay ecclesial ministers in the parish setting. 

In May 2015, two major conversations were held to explore the document commissioned by the Canon Law Society of America entitled: "Toward Canonical Consideration of the Authorization of Lay Ecclesial Ministers for Ministry". The first was a gathering of 25 partners to discuss this study and documents from the 2007 and 2011 symposia. A grassroots listening process was established with our partners. This listening process generated a list of recommendations to advance the will for lay ecclesial ministry at the national, diocesan, and parish level. These recommendations will be tested throughout the United States through a listening session and force-field analysis process. By way of preparing for the process, the partners practiced the process by using the force-field analysis process. The group took one recommendation, a national recommendation to "provide opportunities for dialogue, formation, and education for bishops and clergy around lay ecclesial ministry" and further discussed the enabling and restraining forces, through a force field analysis. The following day, about 40 lay ecclesial ministers and clergy from the area joined in the conversation, learning more about the national state of certification and a prioritization of recommendations for the national, diocesan and parish levels and for a luncheon celebration of the 10th anniversary of the publication of Co-workers and to honor H. Richard McCord with the Wisdom and Service Award. Within the morning, the partners who were previously prepared the day before, led the process with the an additional forty people to prioritize the recommendations for advancing the national will towards the certification and authorization of lay ecclesial ministers.

These recommendations will be presented by the partners around the country for prioritization and implementation. Our partners will develop conversations within their dioceses, parishes, and organizations to repeat the same process they participated in at Collegeville. The recording of speakers, prayer services and other documents are available here for group process. As Saint John's School of Theology and Seminary continues to advancing the national will for lay ecclesial ministry, it is important to continue to gather and listen to the grassroots conversation on the local level throughout the country. This website will host the feedback from the sessions. On a quarterly basis, we will make the feedback available to all. For those hosting listening sessions and dialogue on these recommendations for advancing the national will towards the certification and authorization of lay ecclesial ministry, please give us your feedback.