JORDAN – On August 23, 2018, about twenty faithful received the ministry of Lector to proclaim the Word in their parish. Among them, twenty-one received, in recent weeks, or will soon receive the ministry of acolyte. In an interview with the Media Office, Bishop William Shomali, Patriarchal Vicar of Jordan, discusses the origin, implementation, and purpose of such an approach.
Bishop Shomali, we attended last August the institution of Lector for about twenty men lay and see these final weeks these same men receive acolyte. Can you explain the origin of this step?
In the Vicariate of Jordan, some parishes – Fuheis, Jubeiha, Tilaa-el-Ali – have a large number of faithful and therefore, the time of Holy Communion can last very long, sometimes up to half an hour. With the Presbyteral Council, it seemed necessary to ask certain lay people to come to the service of the altar to lighten the work of the priest. We already had this experience in Jaffa Nazareth and Jerusalem a few years ago. After approval of the Presbyteral Council and the Apostolic Administrator, the Vicariate made a call for applications in each parish. The Presbyteral Council selected a certain number of candidates who had first followed Bible formation for the ministry of Lector (the necessary step before acolyte) then a second more specialized formation on Eucharistic theology. Now, while the Institution of Lectors was done in a joint celebration at the Amman Peace Center, each minister receives Acolyte in his parish. Each of these celebrations is a spiritual highlight for the church parish where there is much enthusiasm for such steps.
What is the commitment of these men and what is it asked of them?
Although it was the diocese that initiated the movement, the commitment of each person was personal and of full conviction, and if they are married, the wives had to give their consent. The acolyte intervenes during the celebrations (reading, preparation of the offerings, distribution of the communion, purification of the sacred vessels) but also in pastoral care by bringing Holy Communion to the sick, ensuring the responsibility of the altar servers, or preparing children for First Communion. However, unlike the deacon, he cannot deliver homilies or confer sacraments.
What is the profile of these men who have chosen to give a little more of themselves to the Church and what is their place in their parish?
Most of them, prior this move towards lector and acolyte, were already well engaged in parish activities (scouting, choir) and therefore well recognized by other parishioners. They all have well-paid jobs for supporting their family (their church service is voluntary), almost all are married. Only one is single. They are between thirty and sixty years old.
And why not women?
Well, I think we’re not ready to open these institutions to women yet. And then these ministries, formerly known as “minor” orders, are the door to the “major” orders, the diaconate, the priesthood, which are not open to women. However, we are fully aware that women are equally involved in the Church and we are thinking about the framework that we could offer them.
Will these established acolytes benefit from a particular accompaniment? And perhaps for some to walk towards the permanent diaconate?
The permanent diaconate is not the objective of this approach but is not excluded. If the diocese needed, it could call any of these men, but it would be for them to go into a process of training more complete than they have received so far. It’s a commitment of another magnitude.
For now, this first commitment is already, and that is why we wish to accompany them in their spiritual life. I asked Father Ashraf Nimri, pastor of Marj El Hamam, to accompany them and offer them training and a time of spiritual retreat. It is indispensable when one is at the service of the Church to nourish its faith and to make it live.
Interviewed by Cécile Klos