What is the Lay Mission Project?
The Lay Mission Project is an apostolate committed to igniting the Faith of lay Catholics and helping them discern and live out their unique vocations. During our three-year program, you’ll learn what it means to have a lay vocation (yes, you have one!) and how you are called to live it out.
To get started, you’ll apply to join a discipleship circle with 7-11 other lay Catholics. You will go through the formation together, supporting each other and learning as a group through biweekly meetings. On your own, the education and formation plan will include:
Weekly online presentations by world- renowned instructors.
Suggested readings, Lectio Divina and spiritual practices for applying the lessons.
Yearly in-person retreats and workshops.
Optional supplemental formation for specialization in various lay ecclesial ministries.
If it sounds like a lot, don’t worry. The whole program is actually designed to fit into any busy Catholic’s schedule. Most weeks only require an about a two hour commitment, with an extra hour or two when you meet with your disciple circle every two to three weeks.
What Sets The Lay Mission Project Apart
There are plenty of faith education programs out there. But the Lay Mission Project is the only one that:
is specifically focused on the secular mission of the laity in the Church
is widely accessible to Catholics
is rooted in personal discipleship and illumines personal and ecclesial vocation
draws upon lay competence and integrates formal theological education
has sufficient scope and depth to be trusted by bishops and priests
specifically focuses on sanctifying your everyday encounters so you can live your Faith
The Second Vatican Council (Vatican II) taught that the evangelization of the temporal order is preeminently a work of lay Catholics in collaboration with their pastors. Recognizing a general lack of understanding of the lay role in the Church’s mission, Cardinal Ratzinger (aka Pope Benedict XVI) proposed theological expansion on the laity’s role as sharers in Christ’s offices of Priest, Prophet, and King:
“Every Christian is consecrated by baptism and shares in the offices of Christ. …The call to a secular task can be understood as a mission given by God…The idea of an ‘ecclesial world-office of the laity’ developed out of the spirit of the Council, could help to clarify the place of lay people in the Church and their consecration and mission for their secular tasks”
The Lay Mission Project focuses on this notion and offers a catechesis developed from the spirit and letter of the Council, which correlates the mission of the Church with the layperson’s participation in secular society.
At Vatican II, for the first time in the Church’s history, the Council Fathers also articulated the unique role of the laity in the life of the Church:
“What specifically characterizes the laity is their secular nature. …By their very vocation, [they] seek the
“What specifically characterizes the laity is their secular nature. …By their very vocation, [they] seek the kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and by ordering them according to the plan of God. They are called there by God that…they may work for the sanctification of the world from within as a leaven. In this way they may make Christ known to others, especially by the testimony of a life resplendent in faith, hope and charity (Lumen Gentium, 31).”
To the laity were given, under the direction of their pastors, particular responsibility for the church’s secular mission:
“The laity are called in a special way to make the Church present and operative in those places and circumstances where only through them can it become the salt of the earth (2 Col. 1:15). Thus every layman, in virtue of the very gifts bestowed upon him, is at the same time a witness and a living instrument of the mission of the Church.” (Lumen Gentium, 33)
This means that you have a unique mission due to your vocation. Nobody else can fulfill it, and your role in the secular world makes you more fit for it, not less.
Want to learn more? Schedule a call with a team leader today!
Frequently Asked Questions
Through Baptism, Jesus imparts to every member of the Church his own unique relationship to God the Father. Just as Jesus revealed the Love of God to the world, he has given us the Holy Spirit to do the same. Distinguished from the ordained clergy — whose fundamental calling is the care of the baptized — the calling of the lay person is to transform all of society through living the faith in every aspect of life, including in the family, social relations, in one’s occupation, etc.
Are you seeking to:
- Have a greater sense of your purpose in life?
- Better understand your role in the Church?
- Strengthen your spiritual life?
- More confidently share the faith with your family, friends, or even at your workplace?
- Deepen your understanding of the Tradition of the Church and its relevance in your daily life?
- Effectively engage significant social issues?
- Learn to see as Jesus sees, and to judge and act with Him?
Then YES! Simply put, if you are a Catholic layperson who seeks to better understand and live the faith, this formation is for you.
Formation is the process that integrates knowledge of the faith with every aspect of life. It requires a spiritual discipline, a mission-focused presentation of the Church’s teaching and a communal encounter that affords mutual encouragement in discerning and living out the mission.
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 persons, families and social structures such as business and the political order. Formation requires growth in personal discipleship and an educational method that enables participants to appreciate how revelation reveals their secular commitments.
Another practical difference is the financial aspect: often academic degree programs are cost prohibitive. That’s why the Lay Mission team has removed all financial hurdles to laypeople participating in the formation.
The Lay Mission Project’s formation process is not only informational, but also provides the structure necessary to support its implementation and practical application in your daily life. The hybrid structure includes not only online delivery of content, but also a local community of fellow disciples with whom you can learn, grow, discern and support one another. These moments of reflection provide the opportunity for integration of the material as it relates to your present relationships and commitments.
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 are not designed to form apostles.
Each lay person — similarly to each member of the clergy — shares in Christ’s priestly, prophetic and kingly functions in the Church’s mission [see Lumen Gentium 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.
Unlike piecemeal event-based formation offerings, the Lay Mission formation 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 Project’s 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.
Participants in the formation range from those who have recently been received into the Church, to cradle Catholics who start with very little familiarity with Scripture and Church teachings, to Ph.D. candidates in Theology who have robust knowledge of the Tradition. Yet all of these groups have reported how impressed they are with the quality, orthodoxy and sophistication of the material while always remaining fresh and new.
Though it is helpful to have a general catechetical foundation, the only prerequisites are (1) 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, and (2) sufficient maturity for relationships that honor the confidentiality and interpersonal revelation amongst friends.
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 discover and live out their unique callings, and to form them to order and transform secular society while accompanying others into an authentic relationship with Jesus Christ.
Each course consists 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.
In spite of the praise we receive for our top notch content, the most celebrated part of our formation is the disciple circles. This is where the real formation happens: the glue that holds the formation together is the small local communities of fellow participants. The online content delivery and app-based learning platform simply makes the Lay Mission Project’s curriculum convenient and practical. As a whole, the formation is implemented via a hybrid (online and in person) process that puts at your disposal some of the greatest theological experts in the world, along with the opportunity to accompany and be accompanied by other men and women participating in the formation. Short informational videos as well as coursework are available online, so that you can more easily fit it into your schedule. The online components complement group discussion, prayer and discernment, enabling you to integrate what you learn with questions relevant to your life. 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.
During the application process, you will have the opportunity to designate which track of formation you would like to participate in:
- Secular Apostolate (standard 3-year)
- Specialized Lay Ecclesial Ministries (requires additional formation)
- Extraordinary Ministry of Holy Communion
- Youth Ministry Leadership
- Parochial Administration
Upon completion of the standard 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. This certificate is the culmination of the formation process. It is also foundational for the sake of other specialized certificates in various lay ecclesial ministries. Each additional certification has its own set of requirements.
Because the formation process has been built from the ground-up with the focus on practical applicability, participants who engage 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 of study, reflection, and prayerful individual and communal discernment participants 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. The overall outcomes to be expected are manifold:
- Personal: You will have a deeper sense of purpose in your daily life, and a more profound intimacy with the person of Jesus Christ, as friend, as brother, as Savior.
- Interpersonal: You will be more confident and effective in sharing your faith with your family, friends, coworkers and strangers. In addition, your disciple circle will become a great source of blessing and support.
Societal: You will see your engagements in secular society as opportunities to live out your apostolic mission, which you received at baptism and for which you were confirmed. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, you will, with the Church, affect gradual transformation of both individuals and social structures, 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 regular 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 disciple circle 2-3 times per month throughout a typical ‘academic’ calendar year. These sessions are 2-3 hours each, and are what the majority of participants look forward to the most. In addition to these small-group meetings all those participating in the diocesan cohort come together twice per academic year: once for a two-day retreat in the late summer/early fall, and another time for a 1-2 day workshop in the winter.
Currently, applications are being accepted for the Dioceses of Oakland and Sacramento, as well as the Archdiocese of San Francisco. If you’re ready to apply, click here. If you would like to learn more, attend one of our live “Come and See(k)” information sessions, or schedule a call with a team member.
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 to bring the Lay Mission Project to the attention of your diocese, and to discuss it with your pastor, and to contact us for more information. In this phase of expansion of the 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!
There are a few amazing ways you can support us:
- Pray! 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.
- Donate: As a non-profit ministry, we run entirely on donations. Though we have received much generous support from many incredible people and organizations, we still need financial help to spread this formation to Catholics across the country. If this is something that speaks to you, please consider donating to help us continue to build the Lay Mission Project.
- Bring us to your diocese! If you think the Lay Mission Project is something your diocese would benefit from, talk to your local bishop, diocesan office or pastor about bringing us to your diocese. We cannot grow without new dioceses to go to, so we would appreciate your help in getting us to new places!
The Lay Mission Project is solely donation-based. To make this unique formation opportunity available for others, we ask for your financial generosity on a monthly basis. It costs us an average of $50/participant each month, but any support is greatly appreciated. However, if you cannot afford to financially support our efforts, don’t let that stop you from applying and living out YOUR mission!
Want to dive even deeper before applying?
View or download our 2023 viewbook to dive much deeper into what the Lay Mission Project formation is all about. See what sort of impact the project is making, hear what participants are saying about their experience, check out the curriculum overview, learn more about the theology of the laity and the underlying spiritual practices to the formation, and hear from our team members about the development of the project as well as its future!