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What is a Lay Ecclesial Minister

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What is a Lay Ecclesial Minister

In the Diocese of Oakland, a Lay Ecclesial Minister is called and authorized to particular leadership in the local Church, in collaboration with the pastoral ministry of the ordained. S/he is a fully initiated faithful Catholic who exercises parish leadership, responding to a discerned call, authenticated by competent ecclesial leadership.  (Definition approved by Bishop Allen Vigneron in 2007.)

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ website refers to their 2005 statement Co-workers in the Vineyard of the Lord in addressing the questions What is lay ecclesial ministry? Who are lay ecclesial ministers?

“The term lay ecclesial ministry reflects certain key realities. Lay ecclesial ministry is:

  • Lay because it is service done by lay persons. The sacramental basis is the Sacraments of Initiation, not the Sacrament of Ordination.
  • Ecclesial because it has a place within the community of the Church, whose communion and mission it serves, and because it is submitted to the discernment, authorization, and supervision of the hierarchy.
  • Ministry because it is the work by which Christians participate in the threefold ministry of Christ, who is priest, prophet, and king and continue his mission and ministry in the world.


Lay ecclesial ministers are women and men whose ecclesial service (lay ecclesial ministry) is characterized by:

  • Authorization of the hierarchy to serve publicly in the local church
  • Leadership in a particular area of ministry
  • Close mutual collaboration with the pastoral ministry of bishops, priests, and deacons
  • Preparation and formation appropriate to the level of responsibilities that are assigned to them


The following understandings should be kept in mind:

  • The term “lay ecclesial minister” is generic.
  • “Lay ecclesial minister” is not itself a specific position title. It is not used in order to establish a new rank or order among the laity.
  • It is the responsibility of the bishop, or his delegate, in accord with the norms of canon law, to identify the roles that most clearly exemplify lay ecclesial ministry. Application of the term may vary from diocese to diocese.”