Maria I. Jaeger and Charles J. Mingin present the Offertory gifts to Bishop Barry C. Knestout during the Mass at which they were commissioned as lay ecclesial ministers, Saturday, June 23, at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, Richmond. To the right is Father Michael G. Boehling. (Photo/Mickle Photography)

Brian T. Olszewski, The Catholic Virginian

With words of encouragement and instruction, Bishop Barry C. Knestout commissioned his first group of lay ecclesial ministers, Saturday, June 23, at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart. It was the third group to be commissioned for the Diocese of Richmond.

In his homily, the bishop spoke about what it is required of a minister.

“Christian ministry means lovingly serving the needs of our neighbor with humility and devotion to God,” he said. “In our present world the term has been often limited to mean only those in a vocational ministry, e.g., pastors; whereas in truth it is the duty of every Christian to serve one another out of love and joy.”

Citing their “good preparation and good formation,” Bishop Knestout said, “Your formation in LEMI (Lay Ecclesial Ministry Institute) has assisted you to understand and articulate the Church’s teaching as well as integrate that teaching into your lives though practice of the spiritual life and prayer and reflection.”

Referring to Pope Francis’ concern that formation of the laity is a significant pastoral challenge in the Church, the bishop said the diocese has done well in addressing it.

“The Lay Ecclesial Ministry Institute is a practical response to this challenge, providing formation, not only for service within the Church but also formation that will allow more effective proclamation and transformation of the society around us,” he said.

Bishop Knestout voiced his support for the ministers and their work.

“You can be confident as you return to your parishes and communities, as you carry out your work, that you have my confidence and support, but also the confidence and support that comes from good preparation and good formation from the LEMI program,” he said.

Friends and family members of the 12 newly commissioned lay ecclesial ministers pray during the commissioning Mass, Saturday, June 23, at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, Richmond. (Photo/Mickle Photography)

Noting Jn 12:24-26, the Gospel proclaimed during the Mass, brought together the awareness of weakness and sin and the grace of God in Christ that invites all to enter into the Paschal Mystery, Bishop Knestout encouraged the ministers in what they were undertaking.

“Now for you who are being commissioned as lay ecclesial ministers, you are no longer just passive recipients of these truths,” he said. “You are now those who help bring the Good News of the Paschal Mystery to those you encounter in the Church.”

Referencing Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation “Gaudete et Exultate” (“Rejoice and Be Glad”) in which the pope encourages the faithful to “welcome the Lord’s surprises,” Bishop Knestout said, “Be alert to the surprises of the Lord, and bring the faith to all you encounter that they may be transformed by the Gospel.”