GRANTS PASS — The Archdiocese of Portland has its first nationally certified lay ecclesial minister.
Natalie Scott, youth and young adult minister at St. Anne Parish here, has received a nod from the Alliance for the Certification of Lay Ecclesial Ministers. Scott is among the first to be recognized by the alliance, a new development in the U.S. church approved by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Lay ecclesial ministers include pastoral associates, catechetical leaders, liturgists, youth ministers and Hispanic ministers. The rapid rise of lay church workers in the past few decades prompted moves by Catholic leaders to make sure such ministers are well trained. The Archdiocese of Portland's Ministry Formation Program, founded in the mid-1990s, was one response. National certification is the latest.
In Co-Workers in the Vineyard of the Lord, a 2005 document, the U.S. bishops called not just for formation of lay ecclesial ministers, but ways to evaluate if ministers are meeting requirements. In 2011, a bishops' committee ratified national certification standards and procedures.
Michal Horace, director for youth and young adult ministry in the archdiocese, is encouraging other ministers to seek national certification. Church employers may soon require job candidates to be certified, or be willing to take the step, Horace said.
Certification requires an application form, recommendations, a portfolio, transcripts and an essay that applies theological, spiritual, pastoral and personal knowledge to pastoral ministry. Applicants also are required to read codes of ethics for their field. As part of certification, a peer review board examines a lay minister's education and experience to check for competence and make sure the worker's vision is the same as that of the bishops.
Scott, at this point an unmarried woman who works 50 to 60 hours per week in what she calls her "dream job," says the shortage of priests means more lay people will be carrying out ministry in the church. "It's a huge task and not that many people are qualified," she says.
Scott is in her third year at St. Anne's, having done similar work in Texas. She holds a bachelor's degree in theology.
Scott says being certified is important, since lay ministers encounter "very messy situations" that only a trained person can handle well. Often, she must work with youths who are using drugs or who have been sexually or physically abused. She also must guide her volunteer ministers as they face dicey situations. Marshaling and training those helpers are among her most important duties; she thinks of it as helping people answer their baptismal call.
For more information on national certification of lay ecclesial ministers, go to www.lemcertification.org.