Defense Date


Graduation Date

Fall 2012


Immediate Access

Submission Type


Degree Name





McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts

Committee Chair

Maureen O'Brien

Committee Member

George Worgul

Committee Member

Sebastian Madathummuriyil


Catholic, Lay Eccelsial, Liturgy, Ministry, Ritual, Sacraments


This work provides steps toward a practical understanding of the changing ministerial relationships in the U.S. Catholic Church given the rapid increase in lay ecclesial ministers ("LEMs") and decline in ordained priests. New ecclesial relationships develop through shifts in ecclesial ministry; formalizing these new relationships, the study argues, will allow for smoother transitions in parishes and a deeper theological understanding of the Church as a whole.

After outlining and exploring the Church's theological understandings of LEMs as called, having a particular vocation, and able to provide us with unique contributions, the author posits that liturgical celebrations for installing LEMs can help situate ministers within new ecclesial and structural relationships.

The liturgical elements that should be included in installation rituals are the Eucharist, the proclamation of Scripture, and the use of formal liturgical language in a Mass. The laying-on of hands would seem a natural addition as well. Diocesan-wide celebrations in addition to parish celebrations and bishop presiders can also help to express the developing theology of LEMs as called, formed, and gifted.

Liturgical celebrations can help to develop a contemporary ecclesiology of the lay ecclesial minister. This includes not only defining the roles of the various ministers, but also (and especially) drawing together theological understandings of these roles and devising liturgical reflections of the deepened understandings--which will, in turn, further increase our understanding. As the Church develops this theology and answers more of these questions, it can then transmit and perpetuate the Church's developing understandings through liturgy.

This work concludes that liturgical installations can help lay ecclesial ministers feel empowered and fill them with the Holy Spirit. The installation rituals can also function as a form of liturgical catechesis, helping to develop and communicate theological understandings of the new ecclesial relationships.