Vocations View: Instituted Ministries of the Church

by Duane Trombetta, Seminarian

In August 2015, I entered my second year of theological studies at Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans. With each successive year in the seminary, I become better equipped to celebrate the sacrament and sacrifice of the Eucharistic liturgy. The Church marks the journey toward that goal with milestones which impart blessings and designate responsibilities. In the past these were called “minor orders.” Today they are called “ministries.”

In the earliest centuries of Christianity, candidates for priesthood would be chosen from among the faithful and entrusted with the important duties of proclaiming the Word of God and assisting at liturgical celebrations. The Council of Trent (1545-1563) delineated the three “major orders” as Priest, Deacon, and Subdeacon, and the four “minor orders” as Acolyte, Exorcist, Lector, and Porter.  The second Vatican Council (1962-1965) consolidated and restructured the minor orders into the two “ministries” of Acolyte and Lector.

Formally instituted Acolytes are lay men who assist priests and deacons in purifying and arranging the sacred vessels at Mass and other church services.  They are considered Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion even outside the celebration of Mass. Formally instituted Lectors are charged with reading the Word of God in church. At their institution ceremonies, Acolytes and Lectors receive special blessings of lasting importance, by which they become consecrated to God (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1672).

Though the Second Vatican Council made changes to the ministries of Acolyte and Lector, their fundamental goal remained constant: to prepare candidates to serve in the Eucharistic liturgy. After all, the Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life. By carrying out the duties of Acolyte and Lector, a candidate for priesthood can be an effective disciple of Christ and help fulfill the mission of evangelization.

Discussion of the ministries of Acolyte and Lector took on timely significance to the Diocese of Shreveport on Saturday, October 24, 2015.  On that day we seminarians, our formators, family members, and friends attended the Rite of Institution in the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception at Notre Dame Seminary.  Shreveport seminarian Kevin Mues received the institution of Lector, and I received the institution of Acolyte.

The Church expressed her happiness on that occasion through a solemn liturgy and by joyful singing by the Notre Dame Seminary Choir, the Schola Cantorum. The presider and homilist was His Excellency, Most Reverend Joseph Strickland, the Bishop of the Diocese of Tyler, Texas. Bishop Strickland symbolically gave the Lectors a Bible to signify their ministry of proclaiming the Word of God, and he handed to the Acolytes a ciborium with bread to signify the ministry of assisting at the altar.
It is my pleasure and honor to serve as Acolyte for the Diocese of Shreveport. And now, destined in a special way for the service of the altar, I will do my best to learn all matters concerning public divine worship and strive to serve worthily in the Eucharistic liturgy of Jesus Christ.

Are you feeling called to a vocation in the Church? Contact Fr. Matthew Long, Director of Church Vocations, at 318-868-4441, or mlong@dioshpt.org

One Response to Vocations View: Instituted Ministries of the Church

  1. Uxi says:

    Slight Correction. No council document of Vatican II said anything about minor orders. Modification was by Paul VI in Ministeria Quaedam in 1972 when he abolished tonsure, as well, and noted “What up to now were called minor orders are henceforth to be called ministries” which was joined to moving the entrance to the clerical state to ordination to the diaconate. Before 1972 going back to the apostolic era, entrance was by first tonsure.

    That there are minor orders is defined under anathema of Trent Session XXIII. The exact enumeration was not, however, though should be noted the four minor orders went back to at least the 3rd century when Pope St. Siricius wrote a letter enumerating the clergy at Rome and defined that an acolyte should be at least 20 years old and had a 5 year interstice to subdeacon (lowered by Pope Zosimus to 4 years).

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