The landscape of lay leadership

What is the current situation of lay leadership in the diocese? What is envisioned moving forward?

As the Diocese of St. Cloud continues to move ahead with the pastoral planning process, it is important to look at the landscape of lay leadership.


The Visitor selected 11 lay leaders in various roles, demographics and geographic areas of the diocese to answer two questions:

  • How is your job a ministry?
  • What is the biggest challenge you face in being able to do your ministry?

Their responses are below.

Mario and Alejandra Mancilla

Mario and Alejandra Mancilla
Hispanic ministry coordinators
St. Leonard Church, Pelican Rapids

“Our role as ministers is to serve others. As lay leaders we are not only serving but also helping other people to become ministers to others. This is a ministry because of the needs we see in our parish; everything starts at the parish level and moves outward to the families and community.

“The biggest challenge for us personally is time — we have a family, jobs and see the needs in our parish, and we are very limited with time. Trying to manage family life, work and serving others is not easy, but everything has its rewards.

“Another challenge we face is faith formation in our language [Spanish]; we were very limited with resources in past years but now with technology it’s getting easier. Also, our diocese has seen our needs and is helping us by starting a lay leadership program in Spanish.”

Chris Calderone

Chris Calderone
Director of liturgy and music
One in Faith community of St. Mary Church, Melrose; St. John the Baptist Church, Meire Grove; St. Michael Church, Spring Hill; and St. Andrew Church, Greenwald

“Liturgy does not simply happen to us. By participating in liturgy and worship, we meet God and God meets us. Likewise, as a liturgist, my ministry goes beyond simply ‘planning’ and ensuring that all the logistics are in place. My ministry is to empower people to participate in liturgy — through communal worship, liturgical ministries and the sharing of gifts and talents — to draw closer to God and help others to do so. Just as a well-prepared and meaningful liturgy can facilitate a faith community’s relationship with God and with each other, I hope that my ministry as a liturgist facilitates a community’s full, active and conscious participation in the sacred liturgies we as a church celebrate.

“The most challenging part of my ministry as a liturgist is the misunderstandings that prevent people from sharing their gifts with the community. The Holy Spirit gives the lay community tremendous gifts to share in liturgy. We are called to participate by lectoring, decorating, ushering, being hospitable, distributing the Eucharist, preaching, singing, cleaning, praying and so much more, and we are made worthy by our baptism to do so. A faith community must invite and encourage its members to share these gifts, and sometimes this means that others — including myself — must step aside and create space for them to do so. As a director of liturgy and music, I am not the only qualified liturgist or musician at Mass. We are all qualified members of the Body of Christ, and we are all called to share our diverse gifts with God and with each other.”


Nikki Walz

Nikki Walz
Director of faith formation
St. Mary’s Cathedral and St. Augustine Church, St. Cloud


“I see my job as a ministry because it is a calling, a vocation to love and help others to grow deeper in their relationship with Christ. When I began to work in ministry, I would continually remind myself not to see myself as an employee but as a missionary. Our job is to evangelize and minister to others, making a gift of ourselves without counting the cost. It’s such a gift to be able to do that as a job!

“The biggest challenge I face in being able to do my ministry is trying to do too much and feeling spread too thin. Our priests are amazing and do so much for us, so sometimes I think I can do as much as they do and begin to feel burnt out. I think it’s important to learn to delegate and help others to step up into leadership positions within the church.”


Rita Clasemann

Rita Clasemann
Parish life coordinator
St. Mary Church, Mora, and St. Kathryn Church, Ogilvie
Chair, Diocesan Planning Council


“This assignment is a ministry because I’m able to be with people at every stage of life — from birth and baptism to youth and teens, those preparing for marriage and those who have been married for decades, those who are ill and those who are dying. And I am with families in their grief. It is a privileged call. I share times of great joy and anticipation, challenge and determination, letting go to move into the next phase of life with the Lord.

“Unlike many jobs, there is no set time, no eight-hour days. Like our devoted clergy, I am on call 24/7. Prayer is a part of each task, each interaction.

“Right now, I would have to say the biggest ‘challenge’ or task before me is guiding our parishes into the future, encouraging them to pray to the Holy Spirit for wisdom, being open to new possibilities and new life. Helping them look honestly at our strengths and weaknesses, our resources and human assets, and how to grow even better in the Lord’s mission of evangelization.”


Deb Rudolph

Deb Rudolph
Pastoral associate
St. Francis Xavier Church, Sartell


“Daily, hourly, I meet people face-to-face who are dealing with real-life issues that affect their physical, emotional, spiritual and faith life, and I stand before them and beside them as Christ. Serving others is central to what I do as a pastoral associate and I understand the work I do as a calling. I did not design this job; it has been a journey of faith and reliance on God that has enabled me to use the gifts God has given me to assist in building his kingdom here and now.

“One of the most important tasks I have is to engage the faithful in a way that invites them to realize their God-given gifts and then share them within and for their community. I am so grateful for the theological education I received in preparation for pastoral ministry. To have depth of knowledge and a theological understanding of Jesus Christ and his church allows me to speak with confidence and encourage others to continue to nurture their personal relationship with God, which in turn will build up the Body of Christ. The ‘job’ I do is indeed ministry for I am but an instrument of God to assist in accomplishing his work in the world.

“The greatest challenge is also one of the greatest blessings — to be totally present to the people God places before me. I routinely pray as I go about visiting with people that I can ‘put myself away’ while I am with the next person and be totally engaged in what they are saying (or not saying). To be present in such a way that they feel heard, supported and loved, not only by me, but more importantly by their faith community. I understand that as I am present to someone, I am a representative of an entire community that is called to love and serve one another as Christ loved and served us all.”


Jim Boyle

Jim Boyle
Retired parish business administrator
St. Mary Church, Alexandria


“With over 43 years in ministry, starting as a volunteer youth minister at St. Charles in Herman, then as a Catholic school teacher and principal in Morris and ending my career as a business administrator at St. Mary’s in Alexandria, I can really see the difference between paid and volunteer staff. Both are very important, but both are very different, and what we expect from them is very different.

“Whether paid or not, I have always viewed my ministry as a calling. In 1975, I had a conversion experience.

That led into choosing to teach in Morris at low pay, because I felt it was a calling. I have never regretted that decision because I still feel that it was a calling and it was a vocation. Equally, people who work in the secular world are also called to live out their calling, as Catholics and Christians, governed by the same standards. That’s why we need committees. I really believe that leadership is much stronger when it is collaborative. Often pastors are not trained for handling everything on their plate. That is when having skilled members from the parish with expertise in specific areas, like finance, for example, can provide advice to pastors.

“Another challenge is being able to pay lay leaders a going rate and providing a chance for advancement. If you hire qualified people and pay qualified people, you don’t have to train a new one each year. If you ask the parish community what it needs and their answer is qualified leaders, then they will pay for what they determined is a need. What I have loved is once you begin serving the people instead of being served by them, things really do take care of themselves.”


Emilie Evink

Emilie Evink
Parish secretary
Assumption Church, Morris


“My work as the parish secretary at Assumption Catholic Church is a ministry of faith because I am often one of the first points of contact for parishioners, community members and visitors.

“Many of the tasks that I complete are not overly challenging. The challenge comes in remembering to greet each person with the love of Christ. Some visitors to the office are full of excitement and happiness as they are preparing for a sacrament, often baptism or marriage. Others are reaching out to the church for support through one of life’s most challenging moments. When meeting others I need to focus my attention to listen to their concerns, hopes and dreams. I have experienced an overwhelming amount of grace over the last seven months to help me through the challenge.”


Debra Meyer-Myrum

Debra Meyer-Myrum
Holy Trinity School, Pierz


“As a Catholic school administrator, there are three areas of leadership: spiritual leader, educational leader and managerial leader. Each area of leadership is a ministry as we work with people to bring about the mission of Catholic education, which is evangelization.

“As a spiritual leader, an administrator provides the structure to bring about the faith and moral development of students and staff through instruction, participation in faith life, and fostering consistent practices of Catholic social teachings. With the school staff, we ensure that the school’s mission statement is lived out daily. We recognize and support the role of parents as the primary educators of their children.

“As the educational leader, it is an administrator’s responsibility to make sure our Catholic identity flows throughout our learning environment and the daily activities of the school. We recognize and foster leadership among the staff, calling forth their gifts and talents to be of ministry to others.

“As a managerial leader, an administrator works with many individuals who are vested in our school mission of evangelization and academic excellence. Every time we interact with another individual, we are called to show respect, listen and be the hands and heart of God.

“The biggest challenge in ministry is the incredible amount of work that needs to be done in a short amount of time. An administrator’s daily journey can be exhausting and seem never-ending with countless interactions and meetings through out a day. It can be a challenge, as Catholic leaders, to keep in the forefront our true mission, evangelization and carrying forth his message of eternal life.”


Victoria Bulcher

Victoria Bulcher
Director of faith formation/coordinator of youth ministry, St. Mary of Mount Carmel Church, Long Prairie; and coordinator of youth and young adult ministry, St. Ann Church, Wadena, and St. John the Baptist Church, Bluffton


“As I was reflecting on this question, the Scripture verse from Ephesians came to mind where Paul tells us, ‘And he gave some as apostles, others as prophets, others as evangelists, and others as pastors and teachers; to equip the holy ones for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ’ (Ephesians 4:11-12).

“Every baptized individual should be working in ministry, which is service to Christ and his church; they just happen to pay me. I have truly felt called from a young age to serve Christ wherever he asks me to go; when I work for a parish and a pastor I am really serving God. I get to experience firsthand sharing the Gospel with someone for the first time or encouraging others to take a stronger leadership role in the parish.

“What is most challenging? The goal is simple, ‘Go, make disciples, baptizing them and teaching them all Jesus taught.’ But there is not an obvious and easy way to do it and working for three different parishes, two different pastors with lots and lots of parishioners and volunteers with their own ideas, desires, and agendas makes it truly challenging to develop a clear vision and plan for the parish and get everyone on the same page. Too often working for the church becomes many independent ministries that may or may not be supported by other staff, but everyone thinks theirs is the most important, and sorting through what needs to be done first is challenging.

“The biggest challenge for me as a lay leader is to keep my personal vocation to holiness and my vocation as a wife and mother superior to my service to the church. It seems that most people in the church expect lay leaders to volunteer much of their time like a consecrated woman and that it becomes expensive to hire the qualified people we need to do the mission of Christ so we expect the limited number of people to do the maximum amount of work.”


Jenny Adams

Jenny Adams
Communications/office assistant
Christ Our Light Church, Princeton and Zimmerman


“I like to think of my role in the church is to engage people into the life of the church by way of print and digital media. I use technology to help extend the reach of our pastor and program staff so that all people can feel included, engaged and up-to-date with what is going on. Also, this role allows for me to share great Catholic and Christian resources, spark conversations on topics that are relevant to faith, and even challenge people in big and small ways to be Christ to one another.

“My biggest challenge can be spontaneity! Great ideas that come last minute still need to be prepared and promoted. This can mean more preparation (design) time is required amidst existing project deadlines, or that the people we are reaching out to with our opportunities would not be given enough time to arrange their schedules to participate.”


Kristin Molitor

Kristin Molitor
New Evangelization coordinator
Immaculate Conception Church, St. Anna; St. Stanislaus Kostka Church, Bowlus; and All Saints Church, Holdingford


“My job is to assist our pastor in helping parishioners grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ.”

“The position of the New Evangelization coordinator in our parish cluster has been reworked into an entirely new position. While this new endeavor is exciting in its endless possibilities of how it can unfold, it’s important to remember that the Holy Spirit is the principal agent of evangelization.”

“My biggest challenge is staying attentive to the workings of the Holy Spirit in our parish cluster and in each person I encounter. The more I get tied up with my vision and strategies of evangelization, the less receptive I become to the Lord’s vision and divine plan for our parishes. It’s difficult not to run ahead of the Holy Spirit, but when you stay obedient to his inspiration, the life of faith grows in beautiful and unimaginable ways.”


Author: Kristi Anderson

Kristi Anderson is the editor of The Central Minnesota Catholic Magazine for the Diocese of St. Cloud.

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