USCCB Certification Guidelines

Appendix A- Excerpt from USSCB Certification Handbook

The following excerpt serves as the necessary backdrop of our updated Diocesan Certification Policy. The committee recommends readiness in each of the following four standard areas.

Standard One: Human

Church ministry builds upon the mission to which all the baptized are called, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel” (Mark 16:15). This proclamation of the Good News requires a witness not only in words but also in actions. It is through the authentic witness of the Catholic Christian in their manner of life and fidelity to the Church’s teachings and traditions that the gospel is best preached.

Church ministers ought to demonstrate the qualities of human maturity needed for fruitful ministry with the people of God. This is true both for the ordained and for the laity. In his apostolic exhortation on priestly formation, Blessed John Paul II wrote that men who are candidates for Holy Orders are to develop their human character and relational abilities so that they can be “a bridge and not an obstacle” for people in their encounter with Jesus Christ. Laity in their distinct but complementary role should do likewise.

This development entails the twofold dynamic of strengthening positive traits that foster ministerial effectiveness and lessening negative traits that hinder it. Accordingly, they ought to strive to deepen their knowledge of self and others, grow from experiences of suffering and challenge, maintain a balanced lifestyle and positive relationships, appreciate and value diversity, and demonstrate basic human virtues. Cultivating such traits and skills within a Christ-centered community contributes to the development of “a healthy and well-balanced personality, for the sake of both personal growth and ministerial service” (CoWorkers, p. 36).

These competencies shall include:

  • Ongoing psychological and ministerial growth
  • A capacity to be self-reflective
  • An ability to articulate knowledge of personal and ministerial strengths and limitations
  • A commitment to professional development
  • An ability to articulate feelings, attitudes, values, and assumptions that affect ministry
Standard Two: Spiritual

Sharing in the common priesthood of all the baptized, a lay ecclesial minister demonstrates Christian spirituality as foundational to ministry, integrated in service with the people of God, and possessing a sacramental view of the world that recognizes the world can be a vessel of God’s presence and God’s transforming grace. Having encountered the person and message of Jesus Christ, the hunger of each lay leader for union with the Triune God is constant. The result of this hunger is the call to holiness, built on the Word of God, experienced in the liturgy and sacraments, formed through suffering, nurtured in joy, and sustained in community with all the baptized and through the Church as Mystical Body.

The minister gives witness to a well-formed spirituality through a rich and diversified prayer life, theological reflection, and action rooted in Catholic social teaching. Spiritual formation is grounded in the understanding that “if ministry does not flow from a personal encounter and ongoing relationship with the Lord, then no matter how ‘accomplished’ it may be in its methods and activities, that ministry will lack the vital soul and source needed to bear lasting fruit” (Co-Workers, p. 38). Therefore, open to the mystery of God’s love and in touch with the world’s realities, all actions of the lay ecclesial minister flow from “that fundamental conversion that places God, and not oneself, at the center of one’s life” (Co-Workers, p. 38).

These competencies shall include:

  • Ongoing faith development and spiritual growth
  • An understanding of personal gifts and abilities brought to ministry
  • A commitment to spiritual growth
  • An ability to reflect theologically
  • An understanding of their baptismal call and the ecclesial elements of ministry
  • An understanding of their role as a public minister
Standard Three: Intellectual

An ecclesial minister demonstrates understanding of the breadth of Catholic theological and pastoral studies as well as the intellectual skill to use that knowledge in ministry with God’s people from diverse populations and cultures. “Formation for lay ecclesial ministry is a journey beyond catechesis into theological study” (Co-Workers, p. 43). An ecclesial minister’s faith and ministry is formed by the study of the Catholic theological tradition. Based upon this study, a theologically competent minister can articulate and interpret this Catholic theological tradition with disciples from diverse communities. A key dynamic of effective ecclesial ministry is the integration into ministry practices of the key documents and principal theories of pastoral ministry.

Theological competencies shall be demonstrated in the following subject areas:

  • Vatican II and Post-Vatican II documents of the Church
  • Systematic/foundational theology
  • Scripture
  • Theology of the Trinity
  • Christology
  • Ecclesiology
  • Sacramental theology
  • Liturgy
  • Ethics/moral theology
  • Social and ecological justice
  • Canon law
  • Familiarity with ecumenical and interreligious practice
Standard Four: Pastoral

An ecclesial minister demonstrates a range of leadership and pastoral skills needed for functioning effectively in ministry. As a response to their baptismal call, ecclesial ministers accept the grace of leadership and manifest a range of skills and pastoral gifts which allow them to function effectively in ministry. In their roles they operate in settings which have various dimensions—faith formation, worship, cultural diversity, community life, social justice, and apostolic service. They are effective listeners who foster respect and offer compassionate care within varied family, community, and cultural settings. In the spirit of the Gospel, they serve others as companions on the journey of faith. These ministers demonstrate good stewardship, work collaboratively with other lay and ordained ministers, and exhibit human resource and management skills. They have an ability to discern and nurture the gifts of all the baptized in order to build the Kingdom of God. Lastly, these ministers embrace a professional code of ethics worthy of Catholic ministry and abide by civil and Church law. “Pastoral formation cultivates the knowledge, attitudes, and skills that directly pertain to effective functioning in the ministry setting and that also pertain to pastoral administration that supports direct ministry” (Co-Workers, page 47).

These competencies shall include

  • An understanding of the stages of human and faith development
  • An understanding of the ways culture and ethnicity affect ministerial practices
  • Assessment, intervention, and referral skills
  • Listening and communication skills
  • Conflict management skills
  • Time management skills
  • Balanced life style skills
  • Collaboration skills
  • Skills of group process and dynamics
  • Pastoral skills relevant to the specialized ministry

In light of the above structure promoted by the USCCB for certification standards, we have chosen to create the following categories for the certification of catechists and professional Lay Ecclesial Ministers. The expectation is clearly that those in professional roles have much more training than is being suggested in the Diocesan Certification process, but like all ministers, they are encouraged to keep current in the Self-directed learning plan (See Appendix E).