Wikipedia definition:

Lay ecclesial ministry is the term adopted by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to identify the relatively new category of pastoral ministers in the Catholic Church who serve the Church but are not ordained. Lay ecclesial ministers are coworkers with the bishop alongside priests and deacons.

Is there a more or less standardized certification process? Is there a formal education requirement? Does it depend on the ministry? Must a priest sponsor the minister? What about the bishop?

  • What's a "lay-minister"?
    – Geremia
    Commented Jul 28, 2019 at 0:15
  • The Church has lay ministries (or, ministries which can be exercised by laymen) to which suitably-trained people are generally simply appointed by local clergy. I don't recognise the Wikipedia "definition" at all. Commented Jul 28, 2019 at 12:03

1 Answer 1


How does one become a “lay-minister” in the Catholic Church?

First of all, what constitutes a Lay minister varies according to the definition employed by pastors and dioceses.

That will depend on the type of lay ministry one is involved in. Depending on the field of work the requirements for ministry vary. All dioceses require that the minister has a sense of calling. In regards to training, dioceses vary in their requirements, from those that emphasize natural gifts to those that also require advanced tertiary education qualifications, for example, from a seminary, theological college or university.

If one is considering becoming a ”Catholic Lay Minister” it is best to approach one’s local pastor (parish priest), local ordinary (bishop) chancery office or some other well informed Catholic in this matter or one’s National Conference of Bishop’s secretary (This can be done on line.) for more details.

The term lay ecclesial ministry reflects certain key realities. Lay ecclesial ministry is: Lay because it is service done by lay persons. The sacramental basis is the Sacraments of Initiation, not the Sacrament of Ordination. Ecclesial because it has a place within the community of the Church, whose communion and mission it serves, and because it is submitted to the discernment, authorization, and supervision of the hierarchy. Ministry because it is the work by which Christians participate in the threefold ministry of Christ, who is priest, prophet, and king and continue his mission and ministry in the world. Lay ecclesial ministers are women and men whose ecclesial service (lay ecclesial ministry) is characterized by: Authorization of the hierarchy to serve publicly in the local church Leadership in a particular area of ministry Close mutual collaboration with the pastoral ministry of bishops, priests, and deacons Preparation and formation appropriate to the level of responsibilities that are assigned to them The following understandings should be kept in mind: The term "lay ecclesial minister" is generic. "Lay ecclesial minister" is not itself a specific position title. It is not used in order to establish a new rank or order among the laity. It is the responsibility of the bishop, or his delegate, ign accord with the norms of canon law, to identify the roles that most clearly exemplify lay ecclesial ministry. Application of the term may vary from diocese to diocese. - What is lay ecclesial ministry? Who are lay ecclesial ministers?

Obviously a principal of a Catholic school needs to be properly educated to meet both state and ecclesiastical requirements.

Formation for Lay Ecclesial Ministers:

The Church has always required proper preparation of those who exercise a ministry. In the same way, CIC, canon 231, states that "lay persons who devote themselves permanently or temporarily to some special service of the Church are obliged to acquire the appropriate formation which is required to fulfill their function properly." Lay ecclesial ministers, just like the ordained, need and deserve formation of high standards, effective methods, and comprehensive goals. . .

  • "To set high standards," said Pope John Paul II, "means both to provide a thorough basic training and to keep it constantly updated. This is a fundamental duty, in order to ensure qualified personnel for the Church’s mission." . . .Lay ecclesial ministers need:

  • Human qualities critical to form wholesome relationships and necessary to be apt instruments of God's love and compassion.

  • A spirituality and practice of prayer that root them in God's Trinitarian life, grounding and animating all they do in ministry.

  • Adequate knowledge in theological and pastoral studies, along with the intellectual skill to use it among the people and cultures of our country.

  • The practical pastoral abilities called for in their particular ministry.

What do Catholic lay ministers do?

Parish Lay Ministers:

  • Director of Administrative Services
  • Director of Religious Education
  • Pastoral Musician
  • Pastoral Associate
  • Adult and Family Minister
  • Liturgist
  • Parish Director (Parish Life Coordinator)
  • Youth Minister (Director of Youth Ministry)
  • Human Concerns Minister (Social Justice Minister)
  • Parish Secretary (Administrative Assistant)
  • RCIA Coordinator
  • Chaplain (Director of Spiritual Care)
  • Campus Minister
  • Retreat Director
  • Spiritual Director
  • Lay Missionary
  • School Principal
  • Catholic Elementary or High School Teacher

The idea of Catholic Lay Ministers is a rather new concept in most dioceses. These “lay ministers” are required to work a minimum of 20 hours a week in their field of service and it is a paid position.

According to the above definition, what has been stated, those serving at the alter, Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist, readers and ushers are not considered “lay ministers”.

These new terms can create some confusion amongst Catholics as the definitions seems to imply things that they are not. Lay ministers are not ordained for example.

However, traditionally altar servers, lector and acolytes are considered minor liturgical ministers.

To a lesser degree ushers are included also. Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist may also be considered ministers’but not in a traditional sense, as it is a rather new practice within the Church.

The Church in modern times also includes lay readers and ushers as liturgical lay ministers.

In a general sense, any Christian exercising a ministry is a minister. Since all the baptised are part of the universal priesthood, whenever they engage in their vocation to evangelize the world and to help those in need, they are ministers.

In addition, the Church calls people to the responsible stewardship of their time and talent in support of the Church. This often takes the form of volunteering for a specific lay ministry, most of which are liturgical, catechetical, or involved in pastoral care and social justice.

Liturgical lay ministries include lectors (Ministers of the Word) who proclaim scriptural (the Bible) passages during the Eucharist, altar servers and acolytes who assist the presider at the altar, cantors and music ministers who lead the singing, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion who serve during Mass and/or who take Holy Communion to the sick and homebound, and ushers or ministers of hospitality who direct the seating and procession of the assembly.

Catechetical lay ministries include catechists (Sunday school teachers and teachers at Catholic schools), dismissal leaders (ministers who lead RCIA catechumens on Sundays), retreat leaders, youth group leaders, and Scout religious emblems counselors.

Other lay ministries include those who work with charitable activities, pastoral care and outreach, or advocacy for social justice. - Minister (Catholic Church

  • Your statement that "readers and ushers are not considered 'lay ministers'" contradicts your quote, which says that "liturgical lay ministries include lectors." Which is true? Commented Jul 28, 2019 at 14:39
  • 1
    “These new terms can create some confusion amongst Catholics as the definitions seems to imply things that they are not. Lay ministers are not ordained for example.”Servers neither gat paid or have a 20 hour requirement of service per week. It depends on one’s definition to follow. Traditionally servers are liturgical minor ministers.
    – Ken Graham
    Commented Jul 28, 2019 at 14:44
  • Servers are, yes; but I was talking about (lay) readers/lectors. Are they lay ministers or not? Your statement implies yes. Your quote implies no. Commented Jul 28, 2019 at 16:25
  • 1
    In modern times, the Church considers lay readers and ushers as liturgical lay ministers.
    – Ken Graham
    Commented Jul 28, 2019 at 16:38

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