Questions About Lay Ministry

What is lay ministry?
Ministry is the way in which the Church continues what Christ began and still intends, namely, the salvation of humanity and the transformation of the world. All baptized and confirmed Christians receive a call and gifts enabling them to participate in this mission. When lay people carry out Christ's work as priest, prophet, and king in their own proper way through public activity authorized by the Church, we call this lay ministry.
In recent years, a growing number of lay persons have prepared for and been appointed to positions of service and leadership in the church. Some of the recent documents of the U. S. Catholic bishops refer to such ministers, who often work full-time for the church, as lay ecclesial ministers.
Are deacons considered lay ministers?
 Because deacons have received the Sacrament of Holy Orders, they are among the ordained, not lay, ministers of the church.

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Switzerland, Tears of Love

Editor: Each country-group in the First International Lay La Salette Encounter held at La Salette in France from Sept. 1-10, 2011 was asked to design a picture of Our Lady of La Salette as if she were appearing in their own country today. What would she wear? What would be symbols indicating topics she might speak about – contemporary ills or concerns of their nation? Here are the visuals and explanation from our Swiss and German group.

In their contemporary version of the event of La Salette, the Swiss see Maximin and Melanie as schoolchildren. All children can and must go to school. They are completely supported by their family. We see them taking a break. Maximin is a soccer player and is dressed like one; in fact, he seems to be kicking the soccer ball while Mary speaks (just as he actually spun his hat on his stick in the original event).

In Switzerland, more than half of all couples are divorced. Their children wait until evening to see their parents and therefore they are alone a lot at home.

The red alarm clock (center left) indicates that these children have a lot to do each day. They have little time for themselves and not much time for God. They have few leaders in faith that they know or admire. In Germany, it seems that many teachers lose their own faith in God.

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La Salette Laity and Religious


Statue of Mary speaking
with the two children,
La Salette, France
Members of the First La Salette
Lay Encounter, La Salette, France,
Sept 1-10, 2011

Frankly I am amazed when I hear the encouraging words of Jesus: “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these because I am going to the Father.” (John 14:12). Imagine – we can do greater things than Jesus because he has gone back to the Father and sent the Spirit to stir up and strengthen our minds, hearts and lives! This gives us unending hope that we can be church and change the world, one person at a time, just like Jesus did. 

When I was with the other participants in the First La Salette International Lay Encounter from September 1-10th of 2011 at La Salette in France, I felt that same hope come alive. We were some forty people from around the world – La Salette laity and religious. Most of us had never met each other yet we discovered during those ten days a sense of community and a unity of vision that was simply remarkable. Our comradery was as palpable as it was remarkable. Our shared prayer, discussions, and workshops on various aspects of the La Salette apparition and our shared mission of reconciliation were affirming and enlightening. It was truly a Pentecost moment!

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Casual or Committed?

The apparition at La Salette offers us an in-depth critique of – or our way of looking at – the world. It challenges us to give up the comfortable security of the noncommittal observer, to relinquish control, to refuse to become ‘solitary monads,’ and to entrust ourselves to the ebb and flow of a history that eludes our grasp, in the image of the One who we believe gave himself into the hands of others in order to give us life.

At La Salette, Mary offers us, in biblical fashion, “an in-depth critique of our way of looking at the world.” Maximin and Mélanie were led to look at their world, at the reality around them: drought, famine, rotten potatoes, worm-eaten grapes and walnuts, the blighted crops – and the resulting death of children, disdain for God, religious indifference, etc. In the face of such insecurity for the future, many inhabitants of those mountains blamed God alone: it was God’s fault, God punishing his children, a vengeful God, no God of love.

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Lay La Salettes in Italy and Spain

Antonella Portinaro, a leader of
the Lay La Salettes in Italy

Editor: Antonella was one of the participants in the First International Lay La Salette Encounter held at La Salette in France from Sept. 1-10, 2011. Each country-group was asked to design a picture of Our Lady of La Salette as if she were appearing in their own country today. What would she wear? What would be symbols indicating topics she might speak about – contemporary ills or concerns of their nation?

My name is Antonella Portinaro and I am a “leader” of the dynamic and dedicated lay associates connected with the Missionaries Our Lady of La Salette from Italy. This lay community is composed of three groups – one in Turin where I reside, the other two in Rome and Naples.

Let me explain our first drawing from Italy. It was prepared by the centro in Rome. Mary stands in the center of the piazza; she has some of the characteristics of Mary at La Salette; namely, the cross with hammer and pincers; the cross is hanging from a chain (the Rosary), a symbol of the strength of prayer; at her waist, there are flowers, a symbol of love; she has a blue shawl, made of tears, (blue a symbol of water and baptism). Light comes from her, touching everything around her. Behind her is a church dome, symbolizing St. Peter’s in Vatican City.

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La Salette Lay Encounter in France

Editor: Fr. Norman Butler, M.S., and Fr. Edilson Schio, M.S., were co-directors of the First International La Salette Lay Encounter (Sept.1-10, 2011) at Holy Mountain, France.

The Encounter: Sept. 1-10, 2011

Salle Schumann, the main meeting room

The ten days of activities and fraternity marked the life of each participant. The moments of prayer, reflection, sharing, questioning and integration brought everyone together. The organization of the Encounter into three “methodologies” made it possible for everyone to follow the steps and understand the objectives.

We sought to take advantage of the many physical spaces at the shrine that lead pilgrims into the experience of La Salette. Not everything happened in our meeting room (the Schumann Room). We spent time on the hillsides, and prayed at different spots: the site of the apparition, the font of water, Mount Planeau, the “Rencontre” chapel and the Basilica.

While many of our activities were specific to our group, at times we participated in activities with the pilgrims on the mountain. The transmission of parts of the Encounter on Internet made it possible for people far away to participate with us.

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Atlanta Lay Summit


La Salette statue in Narthex 
of St. Ann Church, Marietta, GA
Three parishes in the Archdiocese of Atlanta, GA., staffed by the Missionaries of La Salette – St. Ann in Marietta, St. Thomas the Apostle in Smyrna and St. Oliver Plunkett in Snellville – collaborated to host the first La Salette Lay Ministry Summit from Wednesday evening through Saturday, July 20-23, 2011. It involved nearly 2,000 people: Staff Members, Lay Associates, Pastoral Assistants, Volunteers and?Parishioners who minister alongside the Missionaries of La Salette across North America. 
Fr. Thomas Reilly, M.S., Pastor of St. Ann
Parish, Marietta, GA., welcomes everyone
La Salette Missionaries and their lay co-workers came from California, Florida, Louisiana, Texas, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut and North Carolina for this celebration of faith and prayer, an opportunity to learn about crucial topics and simply get to know one another.
The La Salette Missionaries have ministered in North America since 1892 and have shrines and parishes across the country. They came to the Archdiocese of Atlanta in the summer of 1969 and have served in several parishes. Their community charism of reconciliation was a recurring topic during the Lay Ministry Summit.
Very Rev. Joseph Bachand, M.S., Provincial Superior of the North American Province of Mary, Mother of the Americas, explained the main content of the summit: “The three keynote speakers on Thursday, Friday and Saturday mornings were challenging and encouraging in their messages on lay ministry, the Church’s social teaching and catechesis.” 

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La Salettes and Laity:


Fr. Joseph Bachand, M.S., Provincial Superior,
Province of Mary, Mother of the Americas
Opening Address 
A sincere and hearty welcome to all of you attending this historic gathering. Since we have never held a gathering such as this, expectations can be all over the place, from “Let’s try to do it all” to “Whatever happens is good.” The truth and success of what we do here will probably lie somewhere in the middle.
You are here, however, either because you’ve been invited or because your interest has been piqued by the pre-Summit advertising. Even more profoundly, you have been invited or your interest has been piqued precisely because you have a connection to La Salette: you may work closely with La Salette Missionaries or La Salette devotion/spirituality holds an attraction for you. Whatever the case, you are welcome here.
I am taken by the title of this gathering, “La Salette Lay Ministry Summit,” and I see it as my task to draw out the connection between “La Salette,” “laity” and “ministry.” I do not know if that is your understanding of my task, but I hope our expectations converge at some point, and that point may prove both interesting and challenging to you. I undertake this task as a Missionary of Our Lady of La Salette, and so you know the perspective from which I speak.

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Being God's People

Bill and Elaine Hale wrote this article in 1982.

With the coming of our La Salette Lay Ministry Summit in Atlanta, GA, on July 20-23, 2011 (for more information, click here), I thought we could revisit an article by Bill and Elaine Hale, written almost thirty years ago for our publication, Our Lady’s Missionary. Although their young family of seven has now grown into several families with lots of grandchildren, their sharing remains a wonderful testament to how God blesses each of us with the gift of faith and how God wants us to share it within the family of the Church.

Bill’s Journey

I am a man who has come to realize that God is not a distant concept, nor does heaven start when I die. I grew up in a traditional Catholic family. In many ways I always had a passive involvement in the Church and at worship. I did not actively participate and thought, quite frankly, that it made no difference whether I prayed, sang in Church, became involved in activities or donated money — the Church was unaffected. Furthermore, in my opinion, my life was so insignificant that surely God had little time for me. After all, he was light years away in heaven and I was light years away from meeting him.

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The New Laity

The New Laity – A Sign of our Times

The emergence of the layperson has been and continues to be one of the most important and the most visible characteristics of the post-Vatican II Church. The phrase “the emerging layman” has been with us since the early sixties — even the sexist language (layman) smacks of that period. The notion is intimately connected with that of church: the Church is essentially composed of lay people.

Laity and the Church

Lay men and lay women now share in the liturgy of the word from the sanctuary. They distribute the bread of the Eucharist, they serve on

Fr. Ron Beauchemin, M.S., Superior of the Attleboro House,
congratulates laity for giving their commitment for
another year as La Salette Associates

parish councils and on archdiocesan and diocesan committees and they teach in our seminaries. This is not token improvement. This is not a paper-clip change; this is ongoing reconciliation. We remember when the priest called his people “the populo.” This may sound strange today but, at the time it was said, such a remark was symptomatic. It took for granted a clear separation between Church and laity, or between clergy and laity. The communion rail was more than a symbolic table. It was a fence.

The assimilation of the laity into the life of the Church will take years to run its course. This is probably just as well. The slow pace and the gradualness will solidify change, deepen it, and ward off tokenism. But reconciliation is very present, and we are all aware of the process nature of reconciliation. Wherever we have spoken of the laity above, we have understood both men and women. Women, religious sisters are speaking at conferences, teaching in seminaries, preaching and directing retreats and spiritual exercises. All of this was inconceivable fifty years ago.

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