The Liturgy Office frequently receives questions concerning the blessing or institution of new lectors, acolytes, and catechists in the Archdiocese of New York. Who should be admitted to these ministries, what are the qualifications for doing so, and what rituals of blessing should be observed?
These questions stem from two apostolic letters issued by Pope Francis in 2021, one on admitting women to the instituted ministries of acolyte and lector (Spiritus Domini), and the other, in which he established a new instituted ministry of catechist (Antiquum ministerium). More recently, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments issued a Latin version of the ritual for the Institution of Catechists on December 3, 2021, indicating at that time that a new editio typica text containing the installation rites of all three ministries (Lector, Acolyte, and Catechist) should be expected sometime in 2022. In September of this year, the (now) Dicastery for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments announced that this compilation of the rites of installation for all three ministries will be delayed for the time being.
In response to these developments, the USCCB’s Committee on Divine Worship has indicated that the current Rite of Institution of Lectors and Acolytes is still to be used for the time being, along with any necessary changes of gender. Relatedly, the USCCB’s current complementary norm for Canon 230.1 regarding the age and qualifications for the ministries of lector and acolyte remains in force and can serve as a guide for the discernment of candidates, both men and women. In the Archdiocese of New York, a process for implementing these new norms is being developed, and seminarians and candidates for the permanent diaconate will continue to receive these instituted ministries in the context of their respective formation programs.
Currently, a USCCB working group on the ministry of catechist is preparing a document with the canonical clarifications called for by the Holy See (e.g., qualifications, training, discernment of candidates, etc.) and hopes to present this document to the USCCB for its approval next year. As such, no catechists may be “instituted” until this work is completed.
It is often asked if all parish lectors, acolytes, and catechists should receive these ministries moving forward. In response, the USCCB has indicated that the instituted ministries of lector, acolyte, and catechist are primarily intended for those with leadership positions; that is, they are not meant to be held by every volunteer reader, server, and catechist at a parish. On the other hand, an experienced lector who trains other lectors, an acolyte who does the same for servers, or a local DRE or CRE may be suitable candidates to become instituted ministers. In the case of those who serve on a more temporary basis, such as new lectors and catechists, young altar servers, or Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, training for the proper exercise of these ministries should be given, and the blessing rituals provided in the Book of Blessings (see: Chapters 4, 61, 62, and 63) may be used at a commissioning ceremony.