Understanding the Laity as Lay Faithful of the Church

By Mike Nnamah

Laity means lay members of the Church of Christ, who share the common priesthood: through baptism. The lay members of the church constitute 99% of those that make up the church. In other words, the laity is those who are not clerics but enjoy the status as physical persons, of the people of God having equality in dignity with rights and privileges, pertaining to all other members and specific to their state. Among the rights include, the right of belongingness, equality to offices, associations and to be involved in apostolate work of evangelization.

Laity is lay faithful who are non-ordained members of Christ faithful and non-professed members of the religious. The laity therefore is a citizen of the Church and the society and is required as individuals or groups to the apostolate of the church and her mission.

All members of the church of God, the clergy, the religious and the Laity are called to the apostolate and to the vineyard of the Lord; although at different times and for different functions.

The second Vatican Council was explicit in its words in various places on the indispensability of the laity and their apostolate in the church. In deed, the church can not be without the laity. The Bishop’s Conference of Nigeria on the Laity, many times reiterated the importance of the Laity in the church of God. Also Pope John Paul during his first visit to Nigeria appreciated the laity and said that the Laity participates in every thing that assures the church’s vitality, sanctification, material support, fraternal life and especially the witness to the Gospel.

Therefore, the Laity are called to bring the Christian principles to bear upon the temporal order, the spirit of Christ into such spheres of life as marriage and family.

Again, in trade and commerce, politics and government, culture and national or international and in fact all professions the Laity are called to play their distinctive roles as people of Christ.
The Laity are required to promote justice, unity, honesty, public spiritedness and seek gospel inspired and concrete answers to the problems of bribery and corruption, lack of discipline and enthusiasm and such other ills bedeviling our society today.

Often times, though out of ignorance we hear some lay faithful say, they are not members of the Laity or Laity council.

It is now clear to them that all members of the church are Laity except the priests, the religious ordained for special roles in the church.

All members of the church are encouraged to be members of any statutory bodies of CMO, CWO, CYON, Mary League and Holy Child. The above statutory bodies are expected to be in every parish, where as such other pious organizations like Legion of Mary, St. Anthony’s Guild, Blue Army, St. Rita’s Society and the rest are all members of the Laity.

Thus, the Laity Council is the coming together of the leaders of the above various lay groups or organizations, to plan how to participate more actively in the mission of the church; as full members of the church. In other words, the Laity Council is the coming together of the leaders of the lay people; that’s their organizations, associations, movements, societies in the church, to promote and serve as facilitators to the lay apostolate activities. And so when a meeting of Laity Council is convened, it is expected that the various leadership of these organizations will attend. At the end of such meetings, they as the representatives of the various organizations relay the out come of the meeting to their organizations. The Laity Council has the Parish, the Deanery, the Diocesan, Provincial, and the National levels, which aimed at running a smooth council. At each level there are chaplains who guide the laity in their affairs so as to be in conformity with the church’s doctrines.

Apart from the councils in which various organizations are representatives, there exist the executive members who are elected among the statutory and pious societies, to form the executive arm of the various levels of the Councils. The executive arm does the day to day administration of the various Councils, to keep the Laity Council going, for the interest of the Laity in general.

Many lay faithful are committed with genuine apostolic zeal and spirit to serve faithfully, the mission of the church, with their talents and resources. Some of these witnesses are known and reorganized while others are anonymous only to be rewarded by God our father who sees all that is done in secret.

To the glory of God, to be commanded are the lay faithful who at various levels and sectors of life, positively contribute in the renewing the face of the church and the society.

The above exposition has put more light to the issues concerning the Laity and it is believed that we are now better placed to understand Laity and the composition. Lay members of Christ faithful in Nigeria increase in strength and number.

Mike Nnamah Writes from Amawbia and is the President Of Amawbia Deanery Laity Council.

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