A lay person is a member of the Church who in baptism is called upon to participate in the salvific work of the Church in the secular realm; in a special way, the laity are commissioned to make the Church present and operative in those places and circumstances of daily life where only through them can the Church become the salt of the earth. Distinguished from the ordained clergy – whose fundamental calling is the care of the baptized – the calling of the lay person is to transform secular society through living the faith in all aspects of life: in the family, socially and recreationally, in one’s occupation, etc.
While there are graduate degree programs in systematic and applied theology, pastoral ministry, and religious studies, the “end” or goal of an academic education is, first, knowledge of the subject matter, and only secondarily, by choice of the student, its integration in his or her life.
By contrast, the Lay Mission Project is formation, the end or goal of which is the very integration of faith and life and the transformation of secular society, inspired by the faith. Formation requires growth in personal discipleship and an educational method that enables participants to appreciate how revelation illumines their secular commitments.
Another practical difference is, quite frankly, the fact that academic degree programs are far more expensive than the Lay Mission Project formation.
The Lay Mission Project’s formation process includes online delivery of content, as well as occasions to process the information – both individually and in small groups. These moments of reflection provide the opportunity for integration of the material as it relates to present relationships and commitments. Built from the ground-up, each course, lesson, topic, assignment and discussion is designed with immediate applicability in mind.
In addition, unlike program-based initiatives, which often do not offer the resources for follow-up, the Lay Mission Project is a collaborative project that ensures ongoing formation. Those who complete the formation curriculum will be enabled not only to evaluate and analyze real-life situations based on a deeper appreciation for Catholic moral and social teaching and profoundly live the faith in secular society, but they will also receive the formation necessary to utilize their secular competencies in dialogue and collaboration with their pastors, which in turn results in parish-level mission effectiveness. Additionally, since one of the fundamental components of the Projects formation process is coming to know one’s own charism(s), participants will better understand how God has specifically graced them and called them to exercise their spiritual gifts in the mission of the Church, and to assist others in doing so as well.
Formation is the process of integration of knowledge of the faith with a spiritual discipline that enables a real and transformative relationship with Jesus, that is reflected in every relationship and activity. It is helpful to contrast formation with information. There are many sources of solid information in the Church, but even solid information does not include the structure needed to integrate every aspect of our lives – relationships, study, work, prayer, and even recreation – around the following of Christ. By integrating every aspect of our lives in our relationship to Christ, formation aims to help us become the best possible versions of ourselves, and as such, the face and hands of Christ in the concrete circumstances of our world.
There are many educational programs that prepare the laity for the pastoral care of the baptized in activities known as lay ecclesial ministry – for example: catechesis, visiting the sick or home-bound, and in liturgical ministries such as lectoring, ushering, etc. However, such activities are extra-ordinary; they are ordinarily the pastor’s responsibility, and lay women and men who serve as “extraordinary” ministers must be delegated to do so by their pastor.
The primary and ordinary call of the laity is the care of the secular order: in other words, to transform secular society through living the faith in family life, social life, in one’s occupation, and every aspect of life. It is only when laypeople are adequately formed for this primary call that they are able to use their competence and experience in ministries within the parish.
Because lay ecclesial ministry is secondary to that of the secular apostolate, those who take on roles of ministry ought to first be formed for their primary role as secular apostles. The “M.Div.” and other ministerial prep programs are inherently designed for this secondary role, and is not designed to form apostles.
Each lay person – as are each member of the clergy – shares in Christ’s of priestly, prophetic, and kingly functions in the Church’s mission [see LG 31] . Appreciating the rightful desire of all the Church’s members to fully integrate their faith with their daily lives, and recognizing the distinctive call of the laity to live out these offices in the secular order, Lay Mission Project aims to prepare apostles to engage all aspects of secular society.
Are you seeking to:
- deepen your understanding of the Gospel and its relevance in your daily life?
- strengthen your spiritual life?
- share the faith with your family?
- effectively engage a range of perspectives on significant social issues?
- answer the question: who is Jesus?
- learn to see as Jesus sees, and to judge and act with Him?
If any of these questions resonate with you, this formation process may be right for you. Simply put, if you are a Catholic layperson who seeks to grow in understanding of the faith, and to become a part of the Church’s mission to the “world” in the ordinary circumstances of daily life, or if you are interested in lay ecclesial ministry, such as youth ministry, faith formation (catechesis), etc – whether a young adult, middle aged, or elderly, single or married, professional, retired, or a homemaker – come to an info session and FIND OUT how you can become part of a busy-person-friendly, faith-deepening experience. Contact Us Here
The Lay Mission Project’s curriculum is implemented via a hybrid (online and in person) formation process that puts at your disposal some of the greatest theological experts in the world, along with the opportunity to process in small discipleship groups of other men and women. Short informational videos as well as coursework are available online, so that participants can more easily fit it into their schedules. These online components complement group discussion, prayer and discernment, enabling participants to integrate what they learn with relevant questions to their lives:
- How do we respond to those who don’t believe?
- How do you share your faith with your children, your family, and your friends? What is it to represent Christ in this culture?
- What does it mean to be leaven for the world? How do we enhance our social structures, and make the corporate world more human?
- How do we restore relationships in our broken world?
The goal in this methodology is to organize everything around God through our relationship with Jesus Christ and his Church, so as to see, judge, and act with Jesus, our friend and savior. Our common project is that of Pope Francis when he says:
We must restore hope to young people, help the old, be open to the future, spread love. We must be poor among the poor. We need to include the excluded, and preach peace.
The objective of the Lay Mission Project is to prepare laypeople for the sake of their fundamental calling to transform secular society through living the faith in all aspects of life: in the family, socially, in one’s occupation, etc. Our vision is one in which the full Catholic community is engaged at every level of society. Through study, reflection, prayer, and discipleship community building, the Lay Mission Project aims to help individuals to discover and live out their unique callings, and to form them to order and transform secular society while accompanying others into authentic relationship with Jesus Christ.
Because the formation process has been built from the ground-up with the focus on practical applicability, participants who truly engage with the material will rather quickly experience a deepening of their knowledge of the faith and of their ability to see the relevance of the Gospel in their daily lives. This gives a renewed, or even a new-found, sense of purpose or calling, especially with respect to the secular world. Throughout the formation process, study, reflection, prayer, individuals together with their small discipleship community, learn to see Scripture in a whole different way, to read the signs of the times, and – by bringing our daily lives and concerns to Christ – to determine what to do with what is seen in the world. Thus, the overall outcome to be expected is the animation of the lay mission to secular society, and a gradual transformation of institutions and individuals, making more evident the presence of the kingdom of God.
The Lay Mission Project was developed from the ground-up with the average busy layperson in mind. The formation spans a three year period and follows an academic calendar, with extended breaks during the summer and winter, as well as short breaks for Thanksgiving and Holy Week. In general, we recommend that participants allocate 2-3 hours per week for watching formation videos, reading, and reflection. On average, participants will also meet in their local discipleship communities 13-14 times per year in a ten month span. These sessions are 2-3 hours each. In addition to these small-group meetings the whole cohort comes together twice per academic year: once for a two-day retreat in the late summer, and another time for a 1-2 day workshop in the winter.
The following graphic offers an overview of the time commitments for the full curriculum:
Each course is comprised of 5-7 one-hour lessons. Each lesson, in turn, is divided into 3-4 topics introduced by videos of varying lengths (usually 15-20 minutes). Following each video, you may be asked to complete a reflection or an exercise before proceeding to the next topic. At the end of each lesson, we may also ask for an assessment to help us evaluate course effectiveness. Every 2-3 lessons there will be an opportunity to discuss, process, and integrate the course material in person in small-group discipleship communities.
Yes. Upon completion of the 3-year formation, you will receive official recognition from your bishop that you have been prepared to assist others in the following of Christ within your diocese. You will also receive certification from the Lay Mission Project itself.
Depending upon the Diocese, the Lay Mission Project can be a means toward a master-catechist certificate. The coursework required of the Lay Mission Project can replace the coursework for the certificate. If you wish to receive the Master Catechist certificate, there is one more step required, and that is the final assessment. Each diocese has different ways of evaluating the catechist: from an interview, to a project, as well as several other forms of assessment.
Catechesis is an education-based approach focusing on knowledge of the faith. Those who train to become catechists are certified to instruct others in the principles handed down through Scripture and Tradition. While the Lay Mission Project builds upon and refers back to knowledge of the faith, its method and its goal are personal transformation. In other words, the objective of the Lay Mission Project is to form apostles who see with the eyes of Christ and serve as agents of the Gospel in the world. Within the body of the Church, the Lay Mission Project complements catechesis. Whereas catechesis focuses on the nature of the Church and her teachings, the Lay Mission Project aims, more primarily, to bring the Church into the world. Those who take the specialization track of catechesis and faith formation will not only be given the tools for catechesis, but also will be formed in a way to assist in the formation of others.
Though it is helpful to have a general catechetical foundation, the only prerequisite is a desire to deepen and integrate your knowledge of the faith with a spiritual discipline that enables a real and transformative relationship with Jesus that is reflected in every relationship and activity. If you would like more fully to prepare, we encourage you to consult the wealth of resources that exists, including the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) at your parish, and other books and resources.
The desire to deepen your spiritual life and your knowledge of the faith, and to integrate these with the particular circumstances of your life — your relationships, your work, your recreation — is a real prompting of the Holy Spirit. It is our goal to aid you in this quest for the “pearl of great price” (Mt 13:45). Therefore, accessibility to formation is a main priority. Through partnership with your diocese and parish, the cost to you should will likely range between $650-$850 per year over a three-year formation period.
Depending upon diocesan and parish fundraising efforts, this number could be significantly reduced. We encourage you to talk directly with your pastor and to consider creative fundraising strategies. As the number of participants increases and the Project expands, we expect to see further reduction in cost.
Currently the Lay Mission Project’s formation curriculum is being implemented in the Diocese of Sacramento, as well as a few parishes in the San Francisco Bay Area. The process begins with collaborative discernment between you, your pastor, and diocesan staff. The first step would be to attend an info session to learn more about the project.
Lay Mission Project is currently in its beginning stages of curriculum implementation, and at the moment is only available to the lay faithful of the Diocese of Sacramento. However, in the next few years, we plan to continue to hone the formation process, and tailor it to the needs of other dioceses. For the sake of mission effectiveness, the Lay Mission Project operates in full collaboration with the diocesan ordinary (Bishop), and integrates into the operations of the local diocese. In order to expand to your diocese, we encourage you bring the Lay Mission Project to the attention of your diocese, and discuss it with your pastor, and to contact us for more information. In this initial phase of Lay Mission Project, we will have to beg your patience as our growth is gradual. Please let us know of your interest and keep in touch!
First, through prayer! Our Lord encourages us, “If two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father” (Mt 18:19). In other words, your prayers work! So please pray with us for the effectiveness of this project.
Second, keep in touch! We would love to share with you our passion, and vision, and to hear from you about ways you think you can assist us in our mission – whether through time, talent, or treasure. The Lay Mission Project has been given grant support by Our Sunday Visitor, and we have several private donors. Without these financial supporters, this project would still be in the planning phase. However, we need continued support in order to truly bring this project into fruition. Again, if this project is of interest to you, and you have financial means to support it either directly to cover continued development, or indirectly to sponsor participants who cannot afford it, please do not hesitate to let us know.
Third, talk with your local bishop, diocesan staff, or pastor about inviting Lay Mission Project to your diocese!