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Many faces of pastoral ministry – ‘the future’

By Bishop Terry R. LaValley

Feb. 26, 2014

Pastoral ministry has an exciting and challenging future in the Diocese of Ogdensburg. What might it look like? 
In previous articles we have outlined the many tasks involved in pastoral ministry.  We have spoken about the priests, religious, and lay people who provide this ministry.  We have also described where this ministry takes place.

The many components of pastoral ministry will continue into the future.  We are a sacramental and, most importantly, a Eucharistic Church.  Priests, under the direction of their bishops, are essential for pastoral ministry.  Without the celebration of the Eucharist, without Mass, the Church ceases to be.

Therefore, an increase of vocations to the priesthood is essential for the Church to flourish and grow and for people to have their faith life nourished.  The Church needs dedicated families who are willing to promote religious vocations among their sons and daughters.  The faithful should encourage young men who seem suitable for priesthood to investigate whether or not God is calling them to this vocation.  Perhaps, God is using that human voice to invite someone to a priestly vocation.

In some areas of our world, there have been increases of vocations to the priesthood.  Some of these priests, invited by American bishops, are now serving parishes in the United States.  In the past, our Diocese has been blessed with priests from outside the country.  We are currently investigating the possibility of two priests from India serving in our parishes in the months ahead.        

Even with an increase in vocations, we need to make sure that the pastoral needs in our parishes are being met. In many areas of the country, deacons and lay men and women have received additional training to become Pastoral Life Coordinators.  They serve in parishes where there is not a resident pastor.

In their role, they respond to many of the daily requirements of pastoral ministry as well as being charged with full administrative responsibility for the parish or parishes. A priest is assigned to these parishes to provide the sacramental needs of the faithful.

Here in the Diocese of Ogdensburg, in specific pastoral situations, a qualified Pastoral Life Coordinator may be assigned.

The future will also bring new pastoral initiatives.  For example, since people now marry at later ages, there is a greater need for ministry aimed at young Catholic adults who have finished college and are now in the work force.  Their spiritual needs will be different from those of a young family or someone still in school.

Young families may have strayed from the practice of the faith, but still come seeking baptism for their children. 

Again, it will be very important for pastoral ministers to present the beauty of our Catholic faith and heritage so that they may share it with their children.

In postponing marriage to later in life, many couples are living together without benefit of the Sacrament of Matrimony.  Pastoral efforts must reach out to them to explain the beauty and value of marriage.

Young people in high school must face many challenges as they mature.  We hope that they will not conform themselves to the present secular culture in which they live.  The efforts of youth ministry programs will have to compete against many other voices to draw our young people into the practice of the faith.

Here, in the Diocese of Ogdensburg, there are so many women and men dedicated to helping the faith flourish in their local parish families.  We are truly blessed and I am so very grateful. 

As we move forward, seeking always to find new, creative ways to tend to the corporal and spiritual needs among our sisters and brothers, I am confident that more of the faithful will step forward and offer their time and talent as pastoral ministers. 

As we introduce the Pastoral Life Coordinator position in the Diocese, I am confident that parishioners will welcome this new effort to ensure that no one is left behind when it comes to the Church’s ministry. 

As we continue to encourage Church vocations in our families and pray fervently that more of our young women and men will open their hearts and respond to the Lord’s call, we know that the Lord will continue to bless our families abundantly.  May God bless you and your loved ones as you foster the flourishing our Catholic faith in your local parish.

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