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 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
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
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
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
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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