success stories

March 2, 2004

Book: Lay Minsters and Their Spiritual Practices
Authors: James D. Davidson, Thomas P. Walters, Bede Cisco, O.S.B., Katherine Meyer, and Charles E. Zech
Our Sunday Visitor, Huntington, IN, pp. 205

An Excerpt from the Jacket:

While lay ministers have quickly become an integral part of the day-to-day functioning of the Catholic Church in the United States, little has been written about their spiritual practices . . . until now.

Here is a glimpse into the professional and spiritual lives of Catholic lay ministers. For the first time, we learn: what their ministry means to them. What their spiritual practices are. What sustains them in their work. What they seek from continuing education and formation.

. . . You need this if you are a: Lay Minister, Pastor, Formation Program Director, Bishop.

Here — clearly spelled out — are the most popular spiritual practices used by the large majority of lay ministers. The writers also present principles for building effective spiritual formation programs. Here are the real issues and practical ways to address them.

An Excerpt from the Book:

Do Lay Ministers Think the Priesthood and Religious Life Provide the Best Opportunities for Spiritual Growth?

In his book “Roman Catholicism in America,” Chester Gillis says: “Historically members of the Church have separated the spirituality of those in vowed or ordained life from the spirituality of the laity, elevating the former over the latter” (1999:172). As evidence, he cites the following quotation from former Cardinal Cushing, Archbishop of Boston between 1944 and 1970: “Religious life has always been regarded as higher in itself than the lay life, and rightly so . . . . The Laity are called to perfection, too, but they are necessarily busy about temporal affairs and subject to numerous distractions” (1999: 172-173). This vies suggests that, with their slower pace of life and fewer worldly distractions, the priesthood and religious life provide the best opportunity to achieve a close personal relationship with God. By implication, the fast-paced world of the laity, with its many7 “distractions,” makes it more difficult to cultivate a union with Christ.

Critics might challenge the portrait of the priesthood and religious life as involving a slower pace and a more other-worldly lifestyle, calling attention to tightly packed schedules and concerns about worldly matters such as personnel issues and financial management. They also might reject the view that worldly circumstances get between the laity and God, instead viewing them as God’s creation and the Creator’s way of calling laypeople to holiness.

Given these sharply different views, we wanted to see how widespread the historical view of spirituality is among today’s lay ministers and people in religious life. Not surprisingly, people in religious life are twice as likely as lay ministers (405 to 20%) to embrace the historical view that religious life offers the best opportunity for spiritual growth. However, 60% of people in religious life and 80% of lay ministers no longer accept the view that the priesthood and religious life offer the best way to nurture spirituality. Cardinal Cushing’s point of view persists in some places, but it is not longer the prevailing view of either lay ministers or people in religious life.

Table of Contents:

1. Lay ministers and the challenge of spiritual formation

2. Framing our investigation: research design

3. Striving for intimacy with God: the spiritual practices of lay ministers

4. Probing variations in lay minister’s spirituality styles

5. Family life, race, and ethnicity: exploring additional styles of spiritual practice

6. Returning to “The Hill” : reflections and recommendations for spiritual formation.