This article was prepared to be included in the Priest Enculturation Program for the Archdiocese of Halifax-Yarmouth for priests entering the Archdiocese from outside of Canada and North America.
“Because of the one dignity flowing from Baptism, each member of the lay faithful, together with ordained ministers and men and women religious, shares a responsibility for the Church's mission”(1), that is the mission of sharing the Gospel with all peoples and nations. In Saint Paul’s letter to the Corintians, he reminds the community in Corinth “Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body…and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.” (1 Corinthians 12:12-13) Each and every Christian through Baptism is given the mission of bringing the Good News of Jesus Christ to the world. We are one body in Christ, with many parts and skills and talents, each unique to each person. The laity plays a crucial role in the life and mission of the Church, both within its walls and in the broader world.
The Lay faithful have a co-responsibility in the Church which means they are called to actively participate and contribute to the Church's mission and governance. This involvement is not limited to attending Mass or performing religious duties, but rather entails a deeper engagement in evangelization, social justice, and fostering Christian values in society. Through their unique talents, skills, and experiences, the laity enrich the Church's vitality and diversity, becoming agents of transformation in their communities.(2)
Pope Francis in his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium emphasizes that the laity are the vast majority of the people of God. The Laity are called to reach out to the peripheries to proclaim the word of God to places where the clergy cannot reach such as in their homes, workplaces, and schools. This notion challenges the idea of a passive laity and encourages their active and creative role in building a vibrant and missionary Church. “They live in the world, that is, in each and in all of the secular professions and occupations. They live in the ordinary circumstances of family and social life, from which the very web of their existence is woven. They are called there by God that by exercising their proper function and led by the spirit of the Gospel they may work for the sanctification of the world from within as a leaven.” (3)
The Lay Faithful serve in important roles within the church as well, they serve at the family, parish, and diosocean levels and beyond, they serve in many ways such as being a reader at Mass, an Altar Server, choir member, extraordinary minister of Holy Communion. They provide catechesis and formation, help with financial matters, serve in parish leadership teams, pastoral councils, and finance councils, and they work at the archdiocesan offices. The laity are a key part of each and every parish and they are here to support you as their priest!
1 Saint John Paul II, Christifideles Laici 15.
2 CCCB Episcopal Commission for Doctrine, The Co-responsibility of the Lay Faithful in the Church and the World
3 Saint Paul VI Lumen Gentium 31.