by Antonina Zielinska
The Brooklyn Diocesan Pastoral Institute invited lay ministers from Brooklyn and Queens to Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church, Forest Hills, to celebrate vespers on Lay Ministry Sunday, Feb. 10.
“I am most grateful to you for being here tonight to celebrate your ministries,” said Auxiliary Bishop Frank Caggiano, who serves the diocese as Vicar General.
He told those present that each and every one of them was part of the body of Christ.
“This beautiful body is meant to be healthy, vibrant, ever youthful,” he said. “It’s by the sacrifice of your life and mine, in the footsteps of our Lord, that our body will continue to thrive.”
The main speaker at the event was Robert McCarty, executive director of the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry.
“I am absolutely convinced that the hope of the Church is in the lay people,” he said. “I believe that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are in the community.”
He said that in order for the body of the Church to fulfill its potential, the gifts of the Holy Spirit imparted upon communities must be found and utilized.
“I think the Spirit of God is in the chaos,” he said. “So the challenge is to find the Spirit of God in the chaos.”
He asked the people present to look at their community through sacramental eyes, explaining that in order for the Church’s lay ministry to grow, people in their position must identify other people who can do specific ministries.
“Gifts are not always obvious, but they are always there,” he said.
Walter Willer, who came to the event with his wife, Gloria, from Sacred Heart parish, Cambria Heights, said McCarty’s lecture helped reinforce concepts he already knew. He said it helped him to better understand his baptismal obligation to lay ministries.
Dolores Grosso, who attended with her husband James, from Mary’s Nativity – St. Ann parish, Flushing, said she also experienced a renewal during the day’s events.
“It gave me the courage to go on,” she said. “They (staff of the Pastoral Institute) always give us something we can use, and we were not disappointed.”
Grosso said she wishes that more people would have the opportunity she had to grow theologically and spiritually through the Lay Ministry Program, sponsored by the Pastoral Institute. However, she said she will bring what she learns back to the parish with her.
Gerald Tortorella, director of the Pastoral Institute, said this was the first year the diocese celebrated Lay Ministry Sunday as a whole.
“It’s time to bring leaders together and for them to break out of the mold in their parishes,” he said. “I just hope they grow a little deeper in their commitment and realize they are not alone.”
Throughout the evening’s events, lay ministers had time to learn, pray and eat together. The program consisted of McCarty’s lecture, a vespers service led by Bishop Caggiano and a reception.
Tortorella said the event for Lay Ministry Sunday also serves as a recruitment tool. Many people, like Willer, were not yet part of the Lay Ministry Program. With this event, they were able to learn what the Pastoral Institute was all about.