Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ:
The renewal of Lay Ecclesial Ministry has been a central part of the life of the Catholic Church since the historic Second Vatican Council. In the Diocese of Belleville, Lay Ministry has long been a part of the life of our parishes. As we continue to implement The Pastoral Plan for Parish Renewal and Restructuring, we are focusing on our Parish Partnerships, which must work diligently to bring parishes closer together in greater cooperation for the good of the Christian Faithful.
In my letters to you, I specifically asked parish leaders to invite capable, dedicated parishioners to come forward to serve as Lay Ecclesial Ministers and contribute their time and talent to the renewal of their parishes. These Lay Ministers will assist the Priests and Deacons in the service of God and neighbor, helping fellow parishioners to learn their faith, love their faith, and live their faith.
Are you willing to be a witness to Jesus Christ as a Lay Ecclesial Minister? St. John Paul II teaches us that our parishes need you to encourage your Catholic friends to “walk in joy with Jesus.” An essential part of your ministry must be to help the whole Catholic community find greater certainty about what the Church actually teaches, and greater serenity in confronting the many issues which cause division and polarization among those who should be of one mind and heart (cf. Acts 2:44). All must be encouraged "to turn from hesitant and wary steps, to walk in joy with Jesus on the road to everlasting life." (Message to America)
This new opportunity, “Into My Vineyard,” a two-year program of formation for Lay Ecclesial Ministry, will make a major contribution to the future of the Church in southern Illinois. To renew, to revitalize and to strengthen our parishes will take individuals like you, because the Lord Jesus Christ really does need you to give more of yourself to your parish.
The Most Reverend
Edward K. Braxton, Ph.D., S.T.D.
Bishop of Belleville