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Catholic Voice
March 4, 2013   •   VOL. 51, NO. 5   •   Oakland, CA
Other front page stories
Parish's Little Houses offer help
for families
Faith in action:
Lay ministers aid in Church life

Feliciano Tapia offered sessions in Spanish for the first time.
All: josÉ luis aguirre/The Catholic Voice

One of the great changes that took place in the Catholic Church after Vatican II was the participation of the laity in parish life.

What's common now and wasn't 50 years ago, is that every church has ministers of Holy Communion, lectors, choir members, catechists and people involved in various groups and ministries.

More than 100 of these parish leaders, representatives of the different regions covered by the Diocese of Oakland, gathered on Jan. 25 at St. Joan of Arc Parish in San Ramon to reflect on their role during the Year of Faith.

"We must recognize your work in the life of the Church. Without you, the Church would not be what it is today," said Archbishop Alex J. Brunett, apostolic administrator of the diocese, at the event organized by the Council of Lay Ecclesial Ministers.

Several publishers presented new educational materials.

"You not only help the priest do his work, but you have a great responsibility to profess our faith. I appreciate your calling and commitment," the archbishop said.

Included for the first time this year was a presentation in Spanish by Feliciano Tapia, coordinator of the School of Ministry in the Diocese of Fresno and who for the past 18 years has trained of lay ecclesial ministers in dioceses in California and the Midwest.

"We must revisit and revitalize the spirit of Vatican II in this Year of Faith," said Tapia. "Pope John Paul II wrote that the future of the Church is in the hands of lay people and therefore it is important to train, enable us, to talk to leaders of other communities, to learn from them and also share our experiences with others," he added, referring to the document Ecclesia in America.

According to Tapia, the last 50 years has been a rediscovery of the responsibility of the laity. "This is a great gift given to us that we must take with responsibility and with joy," he said.

Tapia also spoke of the challenges facing the Church, such as the shortage of vocations to the priesthood. The great vocation of the laity can help fill that void.

Be involved

For more information about being a lay ecclesial minister, check with your parish or visit www.oakdiocese.org/LEMC

What is a lay ecclesial minister?
In the Diocese of Oakland, a lay ecclesial minister is called and authorized to particular leadership in the local Church, in collaboration with the pastoral ministry of the ordained. He or she is a fully initiated faithful Catholic who exercises parish leadership, responding to a discerned call, authenticated by competent ecclesial leadership.

The Council
In 1999, Bishop John Cummins established the Lay Ecclesial Ministers Council, the first consultative body of lay ministers in the US within a diocesan structure.

This group works through the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis to advise the bishop and the diocese and to provide a forum for the support and formation of the lay ecclesial ministers.

Its membership is drawn from the five regions of the diocese. Council members are elected by their peers in each region and serve for three years.
"Language can be a challenge that we face in a spirit of brotherhood, hope, fellowship and reconciliation among ourselves, family and friends," said Tapia.

This annual meeting of the lay ecclesiastical ministers is very important for parish leaders such as Karen Flores of Queen of All Saints Parish in Concord, who said the conference motivated her to involve others. "That's our job, to bring the good news to others, especially in this year Pope Benedict XVI asked us to promote our faith."

Patricia Salas, catechist at St. Peter Martyr Parish in Pittsburg for the last six years, believes the training of lay ministers is essential so they can do more for the Church.

"For me it is very important as adults to educate children in the faith to help form a better society, in which we respect the values ??and principles of Christian life," she said. "That's our responsibility to God," she added.

Maria Leticia Flores, a reader and catechist at St. Peter Martyr, added that the family is central to the teaching of the faith. "As parents, we are teachers and if we do not give that education to our children, who will do it?" she asked. "Our service is called to the family first and then to the community."

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