In the field of Catholic education, there is great necessity and opportunity to deepen the sense of shared mission especially among the lay, religious, and clerical educators. For their “shared mission” as “builders of communion,” all educators in Catholic schools ought to undergo “shared formation” (Congregation for Catholic Education ).
In shared formation, “the lay faithful themselves can and should help priests and religious in the course of their spiritual and pastoral journey” (Vocation and Mission of the Lay Faithful 61). “Communion and mutuality in the Church are never one-way streets” (CICLSAL ,“Starting Afresh from Christ,” 31).
Wise pastors and religious seek and welcome relevant feedback from lay persons as regards the outcomes of pastoral programs, the quality of the preaching and worship activities, and the personal conduct of pastoral agents.
The formation of the laity is a requirement for the work of evangelization by both the younger and older churches:
“The Gospel cannot become deeply rooted in the mentality, life and work of a people without the active presence of lay people. Thus, from the foundation of a church very special care must be taken to form a mature Christian laity.” (Church’s Missionary Activity 21)
The catechetical and theological formation of the laity strengthens the prophetic ministry of the whole Church and helps the laity to proclaim in word and deed the Gospel in day-to-day life and in particular contexts. Lay persons as catechists, Catholic school teachers, married theologians, and faith-inspired politicians and public servants have many opportunities to exercise their prophetic ministry.
Church leaders can strengthen the prophetic ministry of the laity in the following ways:
1. Support the theological education of lay people.
2. Include lay (single and married) theologians in seminaries (especially to teach sexual ethics, the sacrament of matrimony, Church history, Scripture).
3. Discover and develop gifted lay preachers in parishes and communities.
In countries of the Two-Thirds World, where many families of the lay faithful experience hunger and deprivation of basic needs from time to time, the prophetic ministry of the poor has to be recognized and developed. The poor have to be empowered to tell their stories and to retell them from a faith perspective. As the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines put it in 1991:
“The ‘Church of the Poor’ will also mean that the Church will not only evangelize the poor, but that the poor in the Church will themselves become evangelizers. Pastors will learn to be with, work with and learn from the poor. A ‘Church of the Poor’ will not only render preferential service to the poor but will practice preferential reliance on the poor in the work of evangelization.” (PCP II, 132)
The pervasiveness and persistence of dehumanizing poverty and unnecessary violence in our contemporary world makes it imperative for the whole Church, and for every believer, to exercise better the kingly ministry by paying attention to the wisdom and folly, the fairness and unfairness, of the formulation and implementation of policies of the State and the Church.
A major branch of the kingly ministry is the ministry of social action whose guiding principles include justice, peace, and the integrity of creation.
Church leaders can strengthen the kingly ministry of the laity in the following ways:
1. Intensify education on the Catholic Social Teachings especially on the rights and responsibilities of lay people in the worlds of politics and economics.
2. Ensure that the Parish Pastoral Council is fully functional in terms of personnel, resources,and responsibilities.
3. Open the membership of policy-making councils and boards (of trustees) of Catholic schools, hospitals and institutions to competent laity.
4. Make the Ministry of Financial Management in parishes and ecclesial communities fully functional, transparent and accountable especially when it comes to budgeting and resource mobilization.
Despite the grief and anguish of many people, especially the poor and the sick, throughout history down to our times, the faithful and merciful presence of the Spirit of Christ animates the priestly ministry of the whole Church of which every member constitutes “a royal priesthood, a holy nation” (1 Peter 2:9).
God’s people offer a sacrifice of praise day and night in liturgies and prayers and in the upliftment of hearts and minds to the Lord in the midst of day-to-day activities and struggles.
In the royal priesthood, there is basic equality in dignity of all the members, whether they happen to be ordained or not. “The ordination of one should not become the subordination of another” (Peter Neuner). The ordained priesthood and the common priesthood are meant to enhance their communion and to preserve both their distinction and their equal dignity.
One way Church leaders can strengthen the priesthood of the majority faithful is by inviting and involving them, especially those with musical and artistic talents, in the making of creative worship activities like children’s liturgies.
“When the lay faithful discover and live more and more their vocation and mission in the Church and in the world, the ordained will likewise discover the meaning of their own vocation and mission.Such a discovery on the part of both the clergy and the laity who were called not to compete but to complement each other will result in a deeper realization of the ministry and spirituality of all the baptized.” (PCP II, 417)
The Church is a mystery of communion and shared mission to make the open communion of the Holy Trinity more visible and tangible throughout the earth. It is timely, first, to deepen understanding of the shared mission of all the disciples, both the majority and the minority faithful; second, to improve their co-responsibility and co-operation; third, to empower the laity especially through theological and professional formation.
The laity are secular because they are called to contribute to the sanctification of the world often in implicit ways especially in multireligious, multicultural, or pluralistic contexts.