Ministerial Public Juridic Persons

In recent years, religious institutes have sought to ensure the viability of their institutional ministries so that they can continue to serve even without ongoing support from the sisters and brothers themselves.

The Church in the United States is blessed with institutions that provide healthcare, education, social and pastoral services to millions, especially to the poorest and weakest among us. Many of these have transitioned from ministries wholly owned and operated by religious institutes to ministries that increasingly rely on laypersons with a modicum of control by the religious. Today, many are seeking to continue this evolution, with the establishment of ministerial public juridic persons (m/PJPs). Ministerial PJPs are a model of sponsorship and of lay leadership to ensure the continuation of ministries as works of the Catholic Church.

These ministerial PJPs are established by church authority, i.e. by the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life in Rome, or by the local Bishop. Details of the model will vary, but the goal is the continuation of church ministries that have been started by religious communities. The ministerial PJP provides for ongoing support of the ministries through a governing board with both civil and canonical responsibilities for the ministries entrusted to them. Initially, these governing boards consist of both religious men and women, serving along side lay trustees; there is a gradual succession that foresees full lay boards at some time in the future. These lay leaders are fulfilling the call of the Second Vatican Council for a broader participation of the laity in leadership roles in the life and mission of the Church. "Modern conditions demand that their apostolate be broadened and intensified ... An indication of this manifold and pressing need is the unmistakable work being done today by the Holy Spirit in making the laity ever more conscious of their own responsibility and encouraging them to serve Christ and the Church in all circumstances” (Apostolicam Actuositatem: Decree on the Apostolate of LayPeople, 1963, §1).

As we gain experience with the mPJP model, we find that it has both blessings and challenges. Among the blessings are the continuation of important ministries in the church and the increasing evolution of lay leadership in these ministries. They also allow religious institutes to focus critical energies on their members and the life of the communities. The challenges include the establishment of mPJPs and transitioning to this model. As they become more prevalent, more communities and ministries are turning to this model. This could lead to a multiplication of mPJPs that may struggle to find sufficient committed leadership in the future.

One of the strategies used by early mPJPs has been entrusting the ministries of several institutes to a single mPJP. In this way, the communities are able to concentrate their resources on formation and leadership development for their governing boards. Ministries are grouped by type, e.g. healthcare or education, by region and/or by the charisms of the founding religious institutes, e.g. franciscan or benedictine schools. There are also examples of combining types, regions and charism. However, some similarity may help in establishing a viable mPJP.

Once established, each of these mPJPs reports annually to the authority that established it, generally the bishop and/or the Congregation for Religious in Rome (CICLSAL). That report includes the profile of the (new) Board Members, their formation programs, leadership decisions, financial status, external audit, apostolic activities and relations with the church. This report opens a dialog that promotes the ongoing communion of the ministries with the church, through the mPJP.

August's webcast will explore ministerial PJPs with a particular emphasis on institutes who are seeking to transition their ministries, and those individuals who are called to serve in this capacity.

I am always happy to work with you or your community, or to present materials on various topics as you face the challenges of an uncertain and changing future.

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