What’s a Ministry Assistant, Anyway?
Some years ago the second movie in the Austin Powers franchise introduced the world to “Mini Me,” the clone of his archenemy Dr. Evil. I have often described Ministry Assistants (MA’s) here at Lyke House as “Mini Me’s,” (of course not in the sense that our collective work in the AUC was … eevvvvviiiilllll). If this were fifty years ago before the Second Vatican Council and the document Lumen Getium, The Constitution on the Church , Chapter IV on the laity, that might be true. Today, not so much.
One thing is certain: the Second Vatican Council has taken us back to the spirit of the early church in which everyone had and felt responsibility for the community of believers. Each member had some task to be done for the benefit, and actually the survival, of all. There was no notion such as we have inherited today, that “father” does all the church things while everyone else does a few charitable things and otherwise goes about their secular pursuits.
“But the faithful, in virtue of their royal priesthood, join in the offering of the Eucharist.(3*) They likewise exercise that priesthood in receiving the sacraments, in prayer and thanksgiving, in the witness of a holy life, and by self-denial and active charity…These faithful are by baptism made one body with Christ and are constituted among the People of God; they are in their own way made sharers in the priestly, prophetical, and kingly functions of Christ; and they carry out for their own part the mission of the whole Christian people in the Church and in the world.”
All that means that Ministry Assistants have the same ministry I have as a priest except they are to do it in their world as students and lay people. They are followers of Jesus, doing what Jesus did. They are to hang out where they hang out and be sharing the gospel using words only when necessary. Their work, their ministry, is in the Church and in the world.
In the church building they facilitate the full conscious and active participation of all the believers who are gathered. They arrive much before worship begins and make sure the building is ready. They double check the temperature inside, they clean up the trash around the building that may have accumulated between Friday and Sunday morning. They unlock the doors. One of them makes sure the weekly bulletin is printed and ready to assist the community of the faithful to do their job in worship: sing, hear the word, and respond to it. One MA sets the books for the priest to use during worship and prepares the vessels and linens for the Eucharistic prayer. Another prepares the lectors to proclaim the Word of God, the Eucharistic ministers to distribute the body of Christ, and forms the Ministers of Hospitality to greet the community and making their prayer environment helpful. After worship they create relationships with and among the members of the community by listening for problems to solve and victories to celebrate.
When they are done with Sunday morning, they seek Catholic students and faculty on campus where they can find them. They create advertisements and other public relations opportunities around campus. They hook up the priest with people opportunities on campus. They facilitate the activities and projects that the students who come to the center want to do. They make sure the National Catholic Student Coalition (NCSC) has a faculty representative and a charter on each campus. They make friends everywhere not only for their own benefit but for the sake of extending God’s reign on earth using words when necessary.
Some may be saying, “isn’t that the priest’s job? The Second Vatican Council says no. It is the task and role of the baptized and talented laity. This enables the priest and deacons to do their work of preaching, sanctifying, and ruling (organizing) the believers. The priest is to pray daily for the whole community; he is to reflect on the scriptures and prepare the homily (the weekly conversation with the faithful) for Sunday worship. He is to make connection with other communities and facilitate interactions and cooperation. He is in fact standing in the person of Christ wherever he goes. In short, like Christ he facilitates and guides the worship and witness of the community of believers.
Mini Me‘s?? I guess not. The Ministry Assistants are mature laity doing what lay people are suppose to do: engage in worship, community, and service and help others do the same. They are becoming what lay people are supposed to become, the presence of Christ in their world …
… there is nothing Mini about that.