I remember as a little girl, I had a very eclectic taste of what I wanted to be when I grew up. I went through a phase where I wanted to be both the Blessed Mother, Mother Teresa, and a mommy. There was the phase of wanting to be an interior decorator and then a teacher. It wasn’t until early college working on a degree in pastoral ministry and volunteering, that I began to encounter God reveal and develop a plan to work as a lay ecclesial minister in the Catholic Church.
And here I have been, for 13 years in the vineyard of God’s kingdom. There have been highs and lows, good days and times I wanted to throw in the towel, but through it all, I can see the necessary and vital roles lay people play in the work of unleashing the Gospel.
To be a layperson in 2021 is interesting and yet challenging. We are called to bring Christ into the secular world, every part of our sphere of influence from social media to the workplace. The role of laypeople is to transform every aspect of the culture through the Gospel: family life, education, government, business, the media, entertainment, sports, science, the arts.
Archbishop Vigneron reminds us in Unleash the Gospel that, “The engagement of every lay person, according to their gifts and state in life, is essential for the mission of the Church to be fulfilled. Each member of the lay faithful should always be fully aware of being a ‘member of the Church’ yet entrusted with a unique task which cannot be done by another and which is to be fulfilled for the good of all.”
What does this mean for you and me, as women and men not called to ordination or religious life?
Jesus wants each of us to use our unique gifts and state in life to build the kingdom of God here on earth in our sphere of influence in southeast Michigan. It is important that we all take seriously the call that we each play an important role in, whether single or married, divorced or widowed, kids or no kids.
As the Archbishop has often reminded us, “no more bystanders!” We are not called to be a “benchwarmer.” We are called to be a bright light set on a hill that points others to Christ. Each of us will do that in different ways based on where life finds us, our passions and charisms.
How does each of us embrace our unique role in transforming culture in our parishes and communities?
Well, the answer is that there is no one correct answer. For each of us that will look potentially quite different.
My suggestion would be to pray, discern, and journal on the following questions:
- What are unique, special things that God created in me?
- Where do my interests, passions and creative pursuits lie?
- What is my sphere of influence right where God has me in this season?
- In what ways as a layperson can I more fully bring Jesus Christ into the world around me?
- In what ways is the Holy Spirit asking me to help transform my parish and the wider community? What holds me back from doing so?
As priests and religious face a decline amongst their ranks, this creates a daily challenge of ministering to an ever-growing Catholic flock. This is why the role of the laity- every single baptized man and woman is called to play a necessary role in building the Kingdom of God from womb to tomb.
Jesus, help us to remember that each of us plays a vital role in unleashing the Gospel right where God has us. Open our hearts to divine opportunities to step out of our comfort zone and be bold.