Questions and answers for prospective lay ministers

On Nov. 3, 70 prospective lay ministers gathered at St. Pius X Spiritual Life Center in Blackwood for a Lay Ministry Fair, sponsored by the Diocese of Camden’s Lay Ministry Formation Program.

The event included two talks by Father Joseph Merkt, a priest of the Diocese of Louisville and the author of a booklet on discerning the call to lay ministry entitled, “Considering Lay Ministry?”

Father Merkt was instrumental in the development of core competency standards for the National Certification of Lay Ministers, and is an active and notable figure in the National Association for Lay Ministry.

In his first address to his audience, Father Merkt shared stories of lay persons who felt the call to deeper relationship with God and a more active discipleship who, after discernment, pursued formation for lay ministry.

Father Merkt invited attendees to ponder their own story and invited prospective students to talk with lay ministers and those in the Lay Ministry Formation Program about their stories and experiences of formation.

Also speaking was Father Rene Canales, a priest from St. Gabriel Parish in Carneys Point.  Addressing his audience in Spanish, Fathre Canales spoke of the importance of lay formation and the laity’s role in the evangelization.

Following the talk, prospective students had the opportunity to meet with and ask questions of representatives from the many programs and colleges within the Lay Ministry Formation Program.

A small group workshop given by Father Merkt concluded the day. Participants were guided through a process that would enable them to assist members of their parish communities in discerning the call to lay ministry formation.

The Lay Ministry Formation Program of the Diocese of Camden provides the human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral formation needed to serve competently and confidently in parish ministry. Students take classes online and at locations in South Jersey and Philadelphia. Tuition costs are discounted by partnering institutions and financial assistance is available through the diocese and local parishes.

Participating institutions include the University of Dayton, Villanova University, Neumann University, The College of St. Elizabeth, Georgian Court University, St. Joseph’s College of Maine, the Church Ministry Institute Camden and the Lay Ecclesial Ministry of Camden.

For more information on the Lay Ministry Formation Program of the Diocese of Camden, contact Linda Robinson, 856-583-6116,

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