NZ Catholic bishops set date to discuss new lay Catechist ministry

The Catholic bishops of Aotearoa New Zealand will discuss the new lay Catechist ministry at their meeting in October.

Pope Francis announced the new ministry this month.

NZ Catholic Bishops Conference secretary, Bishop Stephen Lowe, says the bishops have received many questions since the pope’s announcement.

Many of these have been about the formation of the new lay catechists and how the ministry will link to lay pastoral workers.

The bishops will be studying Antiquum Ministerium – the pope’s motu proprio Apostolic Letter – in the months ahead,” he says.

The ministry was established “to respond to an urgent need for the evangelisation of the modern world… undertaken in a ‘secular’ manner, avoiding clericalisation,” an announcement from the Vatican says.

It will formally recognise “those lay men and women who feel called by virtue of their baptism to cooperate in the work of catechesis.”

In the context of evangelisation in the contemporary world and in the face of “the rise of a globalised culture,”it  is necessary to recognise “those lay men and women who feel called by virtue of their baptism to cooperate in the work of catechesis,” Antiquum Ministerium says.

The document says it is up to local bishops’ conferences to decide the local formation process and the criteria for admitting people to the new lay Catechist ministry.

“The bishops’ discussion will also involve the ministries of lector and acolyte, which are now available to lay men and women,” says Lowe.

Lowe points out that the Church in Aotearoa New Zealand has long incorporated the involvement of lay Catholics.

Katekita Māori (Māori catechists), for example, can trace their involvement back to Bishop Jean Baptiste Pompallier, he says.

At a local level, the Church also has a rich lay involvement and leadership, he says.

This includes parish leadership and pastoral workers in various forms according to the local context.

He acknowledges that expectations for immediate change tend to follow when announcements come from the Holy Father.

“But the broadening of these ministries are examples of where our local Church needs some time to receive more information from the Vatican, and also to reflect on the implications for pastoral practice in the Church in Aotearoa New Zealand.

“The New Zealand Bishops Conference is one of the smaller Conferences of Bishops around the world, with a small secretariat.

“This has the advantage that the bishops are more easily able to work together. However, the disadvantage of our individual bishops having a lot more areas of responsibilities can at times lead to some delay in implementing new initiatives,” Lowe says.

The NZ Catholic Bishops Conference’s next meeting will be in Wellington from 31 October to 4 November. This is the meeting at which the new ministry will be discussed.


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