Seminarian Formation : Lectors and Acolytes

Mar 18, 2024

 Several seminarians of the Archdiocese of Portland are being installed in the Ministries of Lector and Acolyte this Spring. It is a significant moment in their formation. Amidst their theological graduate classes, the men commit themselves to greater liturgical and pastoral responsibilities.

In 1973 Pope Paul VI wrote the apostolic letter “Ministeria Quaedam,” which established the lay ministries of lector and acolyte. The essential norms of the letter were adapted into the Church’s Code of Canon Law in 1983. Canon 1035 requires that all seminarians receive these ministries from their bishop before they may be ordained to the transitional diaconate.

These official institutions are important steps to the seminarian’s training and disposition for service of the Word and of the Altar. While he may have served at Mass in these capacities before, the bishop’s conferral of these ministries is a particular celebration of the stages of his discernment. Both the man and the Church must equally agree on his vocational progression for them to be celebrated.

Several conditions must be met in order for the bishop to grant permission for these formal liturgical ministries to be conferred on seminarians. Candidates receive essential training to understand the specific functions and profound meanings involved. A handwritten petition to the bishop is written by the seminarian which testifies that he is old enough, he has attained the necessary qualifications, and he desires to serve God and the Christian people in the ministry. Seminary and vocations officials also provide recommendations to the bishop on behalf of the candidate. Permission is granted in the form of an episcopal decree. The seminarian’s bishop may write a dimissorial letter to give permission for another bishop to confer these ministries in his place.

A special liturgical rite called De Institutione Lectoris and De Institutione Acolythi is used by the bishop. During the rite, a lectionary is placed in the hands of those receiving the ministry of lector, and a paten is placed in the hands of acolyte candidates. The ministers are particularly exhorted to lead zealous lives of faith in accord with God’s word and sacrifice as they take on the responsibilities.

We are glad to celebrate the commitment of our seminarians to serving the Lord and the Church. Let us continue to intercede for their discernment and formation.

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