Lay Advisory Board to help promote healing, renewed sense of mission

| Joe Ruff | November 19, 2018 | 0 Comments

iStock/Natee Meepian

Recognizing the many gifts the laity bring to the Church, Archbishop Bernard Hebda is forming a Lay Advisory Board to meet with him quarterly, helping him promote healing and a renewed sense of mission in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

By Jan. 15, parish pastoral councils across the archdiocese will each select a member to represent them and their parish. Regional meetings will be held in February and March to choose one representative from each deanery, forming a 15-member Lay Advisory Board.

Between quarterly meetings with the archbishop, which are expected to begin in the spring, board members will share with the other pastoral council representatives from their deanery the fruits of their discussions on the archdiocesan board. 

The council representatives, in turn, will be expected to share the information with their pastoral councils, and ultimately, with the faithful of each parish.

Lay participation and collaboration with the archbishop and the broader archdiocese are important goals for the board and all representatives involved, Archbishop Hebda said in a Nov. 15 letter to priests announcing the initiative.

The board also could help the archdiocese as it begins to solidify plans for archdiocesan efforts to promote healing and for the anticipated archdiocesan synod, the archbishop said.  

Suggestions for more lay involvement in the Church have been made by priests and lay people in the wake of the clergy sexual abuse crisis, and the board is one step in making that happen, said Father Michael Tix, archdiocesan liaison for the effort and episcopal vicar for clergy and parish services. The idea also has been discussed with the Presbyteral Council.

“It’s a good idea. It’s the right time,” Father Tix said.

Everyone in the archdiocese has been impacted by the scandal in one way or another, he said. Board members can help promote healing of survivors of clergy sexual abuse, their families and other members of the community by sharing effective ways they’ve seen parishes approach such efforts, Father Tix said.

The board also can be a source of ideas and provide feedback for any number of proposals as the archdiocese seeks renewal in its “mission of serving others in the name of Christ,” he said. 

“Talking to representatives across every corner of the archdiocese opens the door to lots of important work in the future,” Father Tix said.

Tim O’Malley, director of Ministerial Standards and Safe Environment for the archdiocese, said the board’s first priority will be to promote healing. Healing sessions and restorative justice efforts will continue, and lay advisers can help archdiocesan officials know where such gatherings might be needed, and suggest new avenues for reaching out.

“This is another example of the enhanced involvement of laity in this archdiocese,” he said, pointing to the kind of expertise the Archdiocesan Finance Council, the archdiocese’s board of directors and the Ministerial Review Board have been asked to provide in the course of the abuse crisis. All three of those boards include lay members.

Rick Storms, a member of St. Odilia in Shoreview who is involved with the leadership council of that parish, said he is aware of the broad call for lay involvement in the Church. A lay advisory board is a step in the right direction, he said. A strength of his parish is many contributions from the laity, he said.

“Lay people bring a lot of knowledge, expertise and insight that we just can’t expect from any one priest,” Storms said. 

People will want to see the fruits of such an archdiocesan lay advisory board, and know it is more than just a box to check as an archdiocesan initiative, he said.  

Father Tix said one key to an effective board will be providing good formation for the group. It provides great potential to do a lot of good, he said.

“It speaks to a renewed sense of mission for our local Church,” Father Tix said. “It recognizes that the most important need right now is a sense of healing. And part of what we need is learning from our past so we can be the best we can be in the future, in service of the mission of Christ for our time.”

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