The Catholic bishops of Aotearoa New Zealand will discuss at their October meeting the new lay ministry of Catechist announced this month by Pope Francis.
Secretary of the NZ Catholic Bishops Conference, Bishop of Hamilton Stephen Lowe, says the bishops have received many questions about the formation of the new lay catechists, and how the ministry will link to lay pastoral workers, since the Pope’s announcement.
“These are all questions the bishops will have to study in the months ahead,” he said.
Pope Francis announced the new lay ministry of Catechist on 10 May in Antiquum Ministerium (Ancient Ministry), a motu proprio (apostolic letter). It declares formal recognition of “those lay men and women who feel called by virtue of their baptism to cooperate in the work of catechesis.” The official Vatican News says Pope Francis established the ministry “to respond to an urgent need for the evangelisation of the modern world… undertaken in a ‘secular’ manner, avoiding clericalisation.”
The motu proprio says local bishops’ conferences will determine the necessary process of formation and the criteria for admission to the new ministry.
Bishop Lowe says Aotearoa New Zealand already has a rich history of katekita Māori (Māori catechists) going back to Bishop Pompallier.
“The local Church also has a rich lay involvement and leadership which includes parish leadership and pastoral workers in various forms according to the local context,” he said. “The bishops' discussion will also involve the ministries of lector and acolyte, which are now available to lay men and women.”
Bishop Lowe acknowledged expectations that things would happen immediately when announcements came from the Holy Father. “But the broadening of these ministries are examples of where our local Church needs some time to receive more information from the Vatican, and also to reflect on the implications for pastoral practice in the Church in Aotearoa New Zealand.
“The New Zealand Bishops Conference is one of the smaller Conferences of Bishops around the world, with a small secretariat. This has the advantage that the bishops are more easily able to work together. However, the disadvantage of our individual bishops having a lot more areas of responsibilities can at times lead to some delay in implementing new initiatives.”
The next meeting of the NZ Catholic Bishops Conference is in Wellington from 31 October to 4 November.