This is a continuation of the last post with the same title but II.
On our own, it is not just difficult to fulfill the mission of the Church, it is impossible. It is God who fulfills the mission. But we are God’s hands and feet through which the mission of the Church is accomplished. This requires that we know the faith. Formation therefore is something of necessity when it comes to the contribution of the laity towards the achievement of the Church’s mission. Formation is not only for the priests and religious; it is also for the laity.
In the Archdiocese of Lagos, what the seminary is to priest is what the Catholic Lay Apostolate Centre is to the laity. The Lay Apostolate Center has been playing a role in the formation of the laity in the Archdiocese. But there is a lacuna not with the Lay Apostolate Centre but at parish level. Seminars or workshops organized by the Lay Apostolate Centre are attended by representatives of the parish. In many cases, knowledge gained at the seminars or workshops are not passed to the rest of the parishioners. The effort of the Lay Apostolate Centre therefore does not seem to yield the expected fruits. The actualization of the mission of the Church requires that our parishes be committed to lay formation. Formation empowers the laity. Every lay person is blessed with a gift and has a calling. Discernment is critical in order for the gift to be put to use. Formation aids discernment. Having mentioned that our parishes need to be committed to lay formation, the lay person however is principally responsible for his formation. It is his responsibility to know and live his faith. He should study the scripture, learn the Catechism, use the sacraments, and read books that will help his spiritual growth.
There are many aids for lay persons devoted to the apostolate, namely, study sessions, congresses, periods of recollection, spiritual exercises, frequent meetings, conferences, books, and periodicals directed toward the acquisition of a deeper knowledge of sacred Scripture and Catholic doctrine, the nourishment of spiritual life, the discernment of world conditions, and the discovery of suitable methods.5
Lay persons should pursue their own education actively and be faithful to the actual teaching of the Church using resources and materials that are in agreement with the teaching of the Church. However they need to be empowered.
If lay people are to play an active role in the life and mission of the Church, they need good formation, especially in the faith. It is not easy to impart such a formation in parishes which are quite large. An effective solution to this problem probably lies in the formation of small grass-roots communities of the faithful. We should move away from the institutional model of the Church and adopt the communion model. The Church is not primarily an institution, but “a communion of life, charity and truth.” The parishes, as we have them today, cannot give the faithful an experience of real fellowship. They function as administrative subdivisions of the diocese rather than as genuine communities of believers. And because of the numbers involved most of the parishes cannot become communities. Hence, the need for small grass-roots communities where people experience true Christian fellowship and find inspiration and support to lead committed Christian lives…
It is accepted on all sides that lay people need to receive an adequate training if they are to fulfill their proper role in Church and society. But so far the facilities available to them for such training have been quite meagre. There is also a scarcity of funds. Proportionately more money and efforts are invested in the training of priests and religious who are less than one percent of the total Catholic population, while lay people who constitute more than 99 percent are grossly neglected. Hence a reallocation of funds is necessary. 6
This write-up continues in the next post.
- Second Vatican Council, Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity, no 32.
- Kurien Kunnumpuram, SJ, Called to Serve, 2012, St. Pauls, Mumbai, pp. 84-86