Up Front and Personal

A Lay Leader’s Journey in Ministry

by Carmella Dearing

Ministry is the key to serving God by enriching the lives of others in a particular way. Our call to service begins at our baptism when we are enlightened by Christ and the Holy Spirit. With the help of the Spirit and the angels associated with the Pastoral Institute’s Lay Ministry Program, which I attended for three years, I was able to acquire deeper love and devotion to my faith as well as learning how to share it. The Lay Ministry Program gave me the to opportunity for a greater understanding of the sacraments and a chance to pray with Scripture. I also reflected on having a more intimate relationship with God. As that relationship grew, I was able to see Him in others. I learned to not only share my faith but to encourage others who might want to join the Catholic Church.
Lay pastoral ministers provide their parishes with the help that is necessary to ensure the presence of needed programs. My parish, Our Lady of Grace, Howard Beach, has given me the opportunity to be a team member for the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults. Through the RCIA, I have had the pleasure of guiding people to become fully initiated members of the Catholic Church. Seeing them come forward and choose a faith that they desire to be a part of and seeking full initiation into the Catholic Church is astonishing to witness. These individuals want to join our celebrations of love for Jesus by receiving the sacraments, attending Mass and having devotion to the saints.
Since being commissioned as a lay pastoral minister in 2006, I also have had the opportunity to serve St. Thomas the Apostle, Woodhaven, as director of parish outreach. I assign aides to those senior citizens who need assistance with their personal care, errands or cleaning. I also put together a Thanksgiving food drive with the help of many volunteers and the generosity of parishioners, so that the needy in the community will have food for their holiday table. I also organize a monthly senior social along with a committee of volunteers.
Being a part of the two parishes isn’t required of every lay pastoral minister.  However, being involved in parish life is a benefit not only to oneself but also to the parish and pastor. These days when there are fewer vocations to the priesthood, a pastor needs well-trained lay leaders. Any pastor who needs help with a new program or existing ministry can rely on the Lay Ministry Program as a good source of lay leaders. Pastors, who have someone in their parish who they would like to start up a program or ministry, should talk to them and encourage them to enter the program.
We all have special gifts or talents from God. Ministry is the way for us to show how much love we have for Jesus. What better way can we show our love than by reaping the knowledge that is gained from going through the Lay Ministry Program?