The laity are gathered together in the people of God and make up the Body of Christ under one head. Whoever they are they are called upon, as living members, to expend all their energy for the growth of the Church and it’s continuous sanctification since this very energy is a gift of the creator and a blessing of the redeemer. Dogmatic Constitution on the Church #33
On Saturday, February 11, a group of 130 lay men and women will be presented the first annual Bishop’s Awards for Service to the Church during a Mass of Thanksgiving at the Cathedral Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe. Representing volunteer efforts in parishes throughout the diocese and diocesan agencies, together, they personify the call of the Second Vatican Council to energetically fulfill their roles as living members of Christ’s Body, the Church.
That Council, the 50th anniversary of which we celebrate next October, clarified the role of the lay members of the Church. Lay men and women were told their role in the Church was rightfully and singularly theirs by virtue of their Baptism, and not as a participation in the work of the hierarchy. The Council also reminded them that they are called upon to offer to the Church those gifts and talents given to them by the Father both for its temporal and spiritual needs.
Indeed, it is because the honorees are responding to their Baptismal calls in an exemplary manner that their pastors and agency leaders were prompted to nominate them for this special award. And while they are being honored for their outstanding service, they also represent the countless other lay volunteers who animate a parish or agency into a part of the living Body of Christ.
In coming years, as my successors and I honor lay men and women with the Bishop’s Award we hope that in singling out a few of our devoted volunteers, others who go unrecognized will realize that they too are being honored.
This year’s recipients truly represent volunteer labors in both the temporal and spiritual gardens of the Lord’s vineyard. Among them are hospital visitors, catechists, Catholic Charities’ volunteers, adult formation teachers, finance workers, Eucharistic ministers, ministers of the sick, pre-school and nursery volunteers and those whose gifts and labors are too varied to enumerate.
They are the People of God on the march. There is a Latin phrase that well describes them: sine qua non. It refers to things or people without which or whom something could not function. We might well call this a sine qua non award because it recognizes the fact that without active and committed lay men and women volunteers the Church would be in dire straits indeed.
I am honored to serve with them.
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