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A Conversation with Archbishop Hebda

A Conversation with Archbishop Hebda:

The Role of Lay Ecclesial Ministers in Pastoral Care in our Archdiocese

September 14, 2017

Article by Jamie Moloney, APM Communications Chair

“We are the presence of Christ!”

What a wonderful way for Archbishop Hebda to greet the 50+ attendees of APM’s first program of the 2017-2018 year!  He continued, saying the Vatican II council’s documents re-emphasized the role of the baptized, calling each one of us to take responsibility for our faith.  We all have the universal call to holiness and service, bringing forth the fruits of our baptism.  As such, each of us has a gift, a gift given just to us, for use in the church.  We need to be generous with our gifts, as we reflect the nature of the church Christ gave to us.

What is the role of the Bishop?  Or, in our case, the Archbishop?  The role of the bishop is to give order to the Church.  From the Pope, as the Bishop of Rome, to the bishops around the world, they are to bring order and structure to the Church.  This includes being in contact and consultation with the laity.

Discernment is critical in trying to determine how to concretely work within the structure and order of the Church.  With the Holy Spirit guiding all of us, we can collaborate and work together to spread the good news to the world.

Any of us that have heard the Archbishop talk in any venue knows he emphasizes, and models, talking and listening.  True to form, he underscored the need for dialogue when collaborating and consulting with the laity.  The laity, he pointed out, also need to use discernment when collaborating and consulting with each other.

Facing the challenges that we all have working within the Catholic faith, clericalism can be a challenging issue.  Pope Francis has used strong language in warning priests of the dangers of clericalism.  Archbishop Hebda acknowledged the difficulties we face as lay ecclesial ministers, when we experience the detrimental effects of clericalism.  He also pointed out that we, as lay ecclesial ministers, can also have an elitism, to the exclusion of the lay people who are not lay ecclesial ministers.  In this elitism, we risk denying the importance of Holy Orders.  For all of us, we should have a both/and approach, not excluding anyone as we propel forward.

As part of our discernment in how “successful” we are in our ministry, the Archbishop suggested we ask ourselves the following questions:

·      How successful are we in making missionary disciples?

·      What are the fruits of our labor?

·      Is our ministry and service inspiring others?

Echoing the words of Pope Francis, whose emphasis is on mercy in the world, Archbishop Hebda told us to go forward and be the Lord’s presence in the world.  As the Pope explained, the world is like a “field hospital” and we are the active people working in that hospital.  The family is where so much suffering takes place, so we need to be particularly attentive to the family.  “Pastoral Accompaniment” is needed, where we look for the hurting people in our midst, and be the presence of Christ as we walk with them.

(Note: “How to Learn the Art of Accompaniment,” with Bill Huebsch, is our second APM Program, on Thursday, January 18 at 1:00 p.m. at Carondelet Village.)

Discernment was again discussed, as we need to ask ourselves the following questions:

·      Where is God leading me to use my gifts?

·      What needs is God showing me?

In our ministry, we are to be sensitive to those present.  Again, we turn to Pope Francis’ examples.  Recall the time when he baptized a baby of parents who were married outside the church.  Again, when he talked with a same-sex couple.  These are only two of many that many us can recall, where Pope Francis modeled how each of us can be sensitive to those in our midst.

At this point in the program, attendees were given some break time and asked to write down questions for the Archbishop during the break.  Following are the questions and a paraphrased summary of the Archbishop’s responses. 

Question 1:

How do we respond to the same-sex issue?


“One size does not fit all.”

We need to listen for what people are asking (not what we think they want to hear).

Courage might be a helpful organization, though that might not be the solution for everyone.

Finding out which parishes already are ministering and serving people seeking help in this area, and referring people to these churches, would also be helpful.

Look to Pope Francis’ example on how to respond, while keeping within the church teaching to bring life in abundance.

Empathy by offering a pastoral “ear” to hear the concerns of those seeking help is important.

Hope - there is always hope as science and research can continue to help us better understand the issues.

In sacraments, if there is a “well-founded hope,” a child of a same-sex couple should be baptized.  That is just one example.  Priests, as all of us do, need guidance in this area.

Question 2:

How can young people be encouraged to go into pastoral ministry (both as paid, Lay Ecclesial Minister, or as volunteer), when so many positions have been cut?  Also, why are many of us told we must be experienced and educated in pastoral ministry, but are then replaced by those with little or no experience or training?


There are many young people in our Archdiocese with strong gifts.  The Harry Flynn Catechetical Institute is a good option for formation.  NET Ministries bring in young people, as does St. Paul’s Outreach.

The young people also are especially involved in service, and look for service-related activities.  Mission trips, and Habitat for Humanity are two examples where young people are already very involved, or are looking for these opportunities to be involved.

A current challenge, especially in our Archdiocese, is the lack of financial resources to give people a livable wage. Anything involving money in our Archdiocese is “a mess.”

Also, from a parish perspective, these positions are not always given priority, where maybe they should be.

Question 3:

A)  What is being done about priests that have wounded people, yet remain in ministry?

B)  What is being done when training seminarians?


Part A:

These are issues that demand a lot of (the Archbishop’s) time.  There is a Clergy Support Initiative (CSI) to try to address some of the problems.  Some of the younger priests have attended a national conference that also addresses some of the issues.  The priests who attended found this helpful.

Also, psychological help is available for priests and deacons, including support groups.  Efforts are being made to improve continuing education opportunities for the priests.

Fr. Tix is now the Director of the Office of Clergy, and Parish Services.

Finally, addressing the issues of priests needing help, this is a long-term process.

Part B:

One way they are looking at the training for the seminarians is to survey them about the seminary and the training they are receiving.

He acknowledged that they need to do a better job of getting people to meet the seminarians.

He also commented that the seminarians seem to have a deep call to serve the poor, especially in Latino ministries.

Questions 4:

How do we “consult” with you?


Continue dialogues like this, asking the Archbishop to come and speak.

He is working on putting together an Archdiocesan Synod, and would look to us and others to help with that endeavor.

Overall, Archbishop Hebda affirmed the work of those of us in Pastoral Care Ministry, and the importance of our role and gifts in pastoral care.  He was honest about the challenges we face in our Archdiocese, but focused on our gifts, and using our gifts generously in everything we do.

We are the presence of Christ to the hurting people in our midst.

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