Ministry of catechist signals a step towards a more synodal Church

Instituted lay ministry, including the recently created ministry of catechist, and the admission of women to such roles, signals a move towards Pope Francis’ vision for a more synodal Church, an Australian liturgy expert said.

Assistant director of the ACU Centre for Liturgy Dr Jason McFarland welcomed the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments publication of the rite of institution to the ministry of catechist on December 13, saying it was a positive step in the life of the Church.

“The efforts of the Holy See in recent months in regard to instituted lay ministry and the admission of women to such roles is a natural and long overdue sign of the ongoing implementation of the principles of the Second Vatican Council,” Dr McFarland said.

“Along with other recent developments, one can see the new instituted ministry of Catechist and the admission of women to the instituted ministries of Lector and Acolyte as part of a broader papal agenda which should be supported by episcopal conferences when possible, acknowledging of course the authority of conferences to determine what is best for their territory,” Dr McFarland said.

“An expanded cohort of instituted lay ministers of both women and men has the potential to reinvigorate parish life and provide much needed assistance to the diaconate and presbyterate.”

Dr McFarland said a “common response” from the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference on instituting lay ministers would be ideal but acknowledged the authority of local bishops in making the final decision.

He said the Church needed to view the inclusion and formalisation of lay ministers as more than a “minor development”.

“The new instituted lay ministry of Catechist and potentially broader employment of instituted lay Acolytes and Lectors is much more than confirmation of existing liturgical practice,” Dr McFarland said.

“These developments are in conversation with Fratelli tutti, Antiquum ministerium, Querida Amazonia, Magnum principium, the move toward fuller Synodality and Collegiality, and as such they are not minor developments but part of a sea change regarding the Church’s liturgy and its vision of parish ministry.”


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