Lay men and women who serve the Archdiocese of Louisville’s parishes, schools and agencies celebrated, reflected on and were thanked for their vocations during a gathering July 10-13 at St. Meinrad Archabbey.
The retreat-like conference drew about 80 lay ecclesial ministers — such as youth ministers, parish business managers, pastoral associates and catechists — for professional development, networking and spiritual nourishment.
They worshipped together, socialized and heard from local and national speakers, as well as Grammy-nominated musician Sarah Hart. Collectively, the presenters led participants in an examination of their vocation both as church leaders and as disciples of Christ.
On the final day, participants heard from local lay ministers who have retired from full-time church work.
“Lessons from a Lifetime of Ministry” was presented by three panelists — Dr. Carole Goodwin, retired director of the archdiocese’s Office of Youth and Young Adult; Sal Della Bella, who retired after decades of service to the archdiocese in a variety of roles, including organizing previous lay ecclesial assemblies; and Linda Thieneman, who retired from Epiphany Church after decades in church ministry, including worship and music ministry.
The panelists offered practical advice to participants — who asked questions about finding work-life balance, about their greatest challenges in lay ministry and what kept them going when things were tough.
The lessons they shared included a Scriptural reference provided by Goodwin: Micah 6:8, “Walk humbly with God.”
“You need to take time to pray, take time to breathe, take time to recharge and be open to what God is calling you to do,” she said.
Della Bella encouraged his listeners to “Start where people are at.” When we do that, he said, “We’re doing the work God is calling us to do.”
Thieneman said she gradually learned, “Everyone’s not going to love me or even like me, even when I was doing my best.” But she began to realize, she added, “I have a vocation to bring life and love to people.”
The four-day assembly concluded with a question: “What is God saying to you as a disciple of Christ?”
Holly McGuire, the archdiocese’s director of Continuing Education for Priests and Lay Ecclesial Ministers and the assembly’s coordinator, encouraged the lay ministers to answer that question with an action plan based on what they learned from the panelists and speakers — who addressed the themes of leadeship and discipleship through a range of perspectives.
The presenters were:
- Dr. Brian B. Reynolds, chancellor and chief administrative officer of the archdiocese, opened the assembly with a discussion of the document “Co-Workers in the Vineyard of the Lord,” issued by the U.S. bishops in 2005. The document outlines a vision for lay ecclesial ministry.
- Dr. Mike Carotta, a catechist, author and national speaker, presented twice, sharing “Unexpected Occasions of Grace” and “Discipleship, a New Approach to Our Work.”
- Dr. Cathy Carotta, a speech-language pathologist, educator and long-time leader at Boys Town National Research Hospital, discussed “Leadership Within Challenging Times.”
- Sarah Hart, a Catholic musician, provided an interactive concert that got participants mingling, hugging and complimenting one another. And she gave a presentation on “Staying Passionate and Committed to Ministry.”
- Deacon Royce Winters, director of African-American pastoral ministries for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, discussed “Discipleship and Evangelization,” delving into what those things might look like for lay ministers.
This was the Archdiocese of Louisville’s third Lay Ecclesial Assembly. The first was in 2018 and it was held a second time in 2021. The gatherings have been funded by a grant from the Lilly Endowment, a private foundation that awards grants to help enrich the religious lives of Christians in the United States.
Each time, the assembly has drawn professional ministers — often with specialized education in their field — who serve in parishes around the archdiocese.