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Issue Date:  September 16, 2005

Building a future

In this special section on Ministries, a lay minister describes her work as “an important and valid bridge between where the church was and where the church is going. Even if I’m only meeting the needs of the people during the priest shortage, it’s important work,” says Sr. Marla Clercx, who is pastoral administrator for a rural parish in Wisconsin.

Many who believe that lay ministry is more than a stopgap measure during a priest shortage are exploring its evolution and future as a profession. Reporter Patricia Lefevere gives a survey of the discussion, from an upcoming document from the U.S. bishops, to nationwide gatherings of lay ministers with other church leaders to share “best practices” that might build the church of the future ( see story). As part of this picture, Lefevere reports on a recently released study on the growth in numbers of parishes led by laity ( see story), accompanied by writer Paige Byrne Shortal’s profiles of three people, Clercx ( see story), Brenda Pehle ( see story) and Tom Johnson ( see story) who are doing just such work.

For another aspect of ministry in parish life NCR staff writer Benedictine Sr. Antonia Ryan opens a window onto the unsung contributions of parish secretaries, the ones who quietly “keep the ship sailing.” ( See story)

Two essay writers, Ginny Moyer ( see story) and Karen O’Brien ( See story), each have stories from experience in Catholic ministry of conflict and dashed assumptions -- and the unexpected joys that can come from reaching out across divisions.

Finally, two features look at the work of serving the marginalized: Melissa Jones profiles Taller San Jose, a project in Santa Ana, Calif., that offers education and job training to counter the gang violence and poverty in the community. ( See story) And Kris Berggren explores the work of those who make spiritual direction available to the poor ( see story), the homeless ( see story), and those who have been in prison ( see story).

-- Teresa Malcolm

Additional Stories
Putting heads, hearts and resources together

By Patricia Lefevere
Youth programs geared to Hispanics needed, says report

By Catholic News Service

National Catholic Reporter, September 16, 2005

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