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Chapter 11. The Four Marks of the Church • 135

in parishes, church agencies, and organizations, and at diocesan

and national levels. They are doing so in a public, stable, rec-

ognized, and authorized manner. Furthermore, when these lay

ministers speak of their responsibilities, they emphasize minis-

tering in ways that are distinguished from, yet complementary

to, the roles of ordained ministers. Many of them also express

a deep sense of vocation that is part of their personal identity

and that motivates what they are doing. Many have sought aca-

demic credentials and diocesan certification in order to prepare

for their ministry. (USCCB Subcommittee on Lay Ministry,


Ecclesial Ministry: The State of the Questions


DC: USCCB, 1999], 9)


From the beginning of the Church, there have been men and women

who have chosen to live in a radical witness to Christ by imitating him as

closely as possible in his poverty, chastity, and obedience. In the course of

the centuries, this commitment became more and more visible through

the establishment of monasteries, religious orders and congregations,

and other types of institutes. Men and women professed publicly evan-

gelical “counsels” (vows) of poverty, chastity, and obedience and com-

mitted themselves to stability of life within communities.

Blessed Junipero Serra was a Franciscan, the member of an order

that goes back to St. Francis of Assisi (1181-1226). That is one form of

consecrated life among the many that have developed in the course of

the Church’s history. They enrich the Church not only by the radicalness

of their embrace of the evangelical counsels, but also by the many apos-

tolates (e.g., education and health care) by which they follow Christ in

his compassion and care for others.


This chapter has uncovered the richness of the Catholic Church, as she

comes from her source in God himself. Catholics today are encouraged

to share this life of the Church with others, thus enabling them to know