Role of laity in the Church discussed in Fair Haven
By Dr. Carly York | Correspondent
“Our panel on the ‘Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity’ is a discussion for the laity. Since I am the only one wearing a collar, I will be quiet,” Father James Grogan, pastor of Nativity Parish, Fair Haven, said jovially as he turned the microphone over to speakers present for a talk on laity in the Church.
The decree, “Apostolicam Actuositatem,” was written in November 1965, one of the many fruits of the Second Vatican Council. It states, “In this decree, the Council seeks to describe the nature, character, and diversity of the lay apostolate, to state its basic principles, and to give pastoral directives for its more effective exercise.”
In an attempt to encourage discussion on the topic, Father Grogan, who wrote a parish decree study guide, brought together a panel of laity from around the Diocese May 22 that included parish youth and professionals from the workforce who shared their experiences in lay ministry. The event was moderated by Jim Manfredonia and Gabriella Furmato of Domestic Church Media Catholic radio.
“The Church exists to evangelize. How do we answer the call of the Holy Spirit?” Manfredonia asked the panel.
“The same Spirit that called the early Church still calls us,” said panelist John Hendrick, a senior executive with Samsung USA. “The challenge in our society is that we exist a lot out of our work identity. We define ourselves by our work, or social identity or sports teams, but we don’t often explore our Catholic identity.”
Furmato urged the panel further: “In your daily life, how do you hear and respond to the Holy Spirit’s call to lay ministry?”
Fiona Lenahan, a junior in Rumson-Fair Haven High School and member of the Nativity Parish Contemporary Music Ensemble, answered, “I think of this question as, ‘How do I show my Catholic identity?’ I do this by caring for others.”
Victoria Sullivan, a former member of the parish’s youth ministry, agreed. “God gives us all different gifts, and then we have a choice to use them to serve the community.”
One of topics discussed in the decree is the various “fields” of the apostles, prompting the moderators to ask, “How is the family the ‘Little Church’”?
Jen Perry, pastoral associate in St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral, Freehold, explained how she grew up in a Catholic family, spending her childhood at Church events and weekly Mass.
“That emersion into Catholic culture was integral in my formation and helped shaped my career choice,” said Perry, who has worked in parish ministry for 22 years.
Also discussed in the decree are the various forms of the Apostolate. “What is the most important responsibility of Catholic Adults?” the panelists were asked.
“Our media and culture are very ‘me’ focused. But God is focused outward – in community-building. We need to be present to others. There are people out there who need you,” said St. Robert Bellarmine parishioner Kathy Lo Bue of Glen Eagle Advisors, Freehold, a faith and family investment firm of which she is a director.
Those in attendance also had questions for the panelists.
“The new-age, self-help, spirituality industry is a billion-dollar business. How does the Catholic Church fill the obvious spiritual needs of people who are paying for it elsewhere?” one person asked.
“The Catholic Church has a very rich tradition of meditation. We have what they are looking for,” Perry said emphatically. “We just need to get them the resources.”
After the event, discussion continued one-on-one over refreshments.
“When you serve the Church, you become more and more spiritual. You start to see life from God’s perspective,” shared Joseph Delustro, head of the parish’s Lector Ministry. “Also, when you are connected to Christ through service, he brings like-minded people to your life.”
Parishioners Lucille and Pat Quigley said they were drawn to the event because they have always been interested in the Second Vatican Council, especially since they remember when the decree was first issued and the Church pre-Vatican II.
“Just like we saw politically at the end of WWI and WWII, the power had to go to the people in the Church, too,” Pat Quigley explained. “The theology of Baptism shows that the people are the Church. Our former pastor used to always say, ‘Welcome to the House of the Church of God.’ The Church is the lay people.”