Formation of the Laity

Formation of the Laity


About 98% of the Church comprises of the laity.
Everything that is said about the Church in Vatican II is said equally to laity, religious
and clergy (Lumen Gentium 30). All the baptised in their own way participate in the priestly,
prophetic and kingly office of Christ (LG 30). Unlike clergy and religious who may sometimes
participate in secular employment and operate in the secular sphere, the laity are permanently
oriented to it and participate in it. This is their particular field of mission. So in
order to help them to be effective in their role as leaders in the church and in the world
adequate formation is needed. Lay leaders, just like the ordained, need and deserve formation
of high standards, effective methods, and comprehensive goals. Pope Francis said; “We
need well-formed lay people animated by a sincere faith, whose life has been touched
by the personal and merciful love of Jesus Christ” – The four areas of formation—human,
spiritual, intellectual, and pastoral, that provide a framework for the formation of deacons
and priests should also provide the framework for lay leaders. They need: 1 Human qualities
critical to form wholesome relationships and necessary to be apt instruments of God’s
love and compassion. 2 A spirituality and practice of prayer that root them in God’s
Trinitarian life, grounding and animating all they do in ministry. 3 Adequate knowledge
in theological and pastoral studies, along with the intellectual skill to use it among
the people and cultures of our country. 4 The practical pastoral abilities called for
in their particular ministry. The formation should recognize the different life circumstances
of those who are married, single, or non-ordained vowed members of a religious community. Married
lay leaders have a sacramental bond with their spouses and a commitment to building up the
domestic church of the home through their covenantal married love. This bond is a great
gift that they bring to the Church’s mission of sharing the Good News. Single persons witness
to the uniqueness of God’s call in each human life and to celibacy that is faithfully
accepted or freely chosen. Consecrated religious who exercise another ecclesial service maintain
a fundamental bond with and responsibility to their religious communities. The Formators
who are responsible for the human, spiritual, intellectual, and pastoral formation need
to recognize and tap the life experiences of lay leaders: for example, their family
relationships, the ordinary responsibilities of daily chores, or the financial challenges
of educating children, medical support or providing for retirement. Every person preparing
for lay leadership has already been somewhat formed by the cultural context(s) which that
person has experienced. Formation programs need to be mindful of the words of St John
Paul II: that formation should “take the greatest account of local human culture, which
contributes to formation itself”. Taking our country India into account we must be
aware that it is a pluralistic, multilingual and multi-ethnic society. Therefore formators
should help participants discern the important aspects in their culture and how to strengthen
them in ministry. Participants should also study the shadows in the culture, particularly
those that make up the “culture of death,” exploring how to transform them in accord
with the message of the Gospel and the teachings of the Church. Formation programs will do
well to incorporate, consciously and intentionally, persons of different cultures and to prepare
people for service in different cultural communities. The increasing cultural diversity of the Church
in our country calls for a similar diversity in the preparation of its lay leaders. This
kind of formation will make Pope Francis words come true: The laity are witnesses of Christ
in private life and in society, almost “visible signs” of the presence of Christ in every
environment.

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