New Lay Ministries for Ireland: Lector, Acolyte and Catechist

Mar 11, 2022 | 2 comments

As the pressure upon a declining cohort of ageing ordained priests increases, three new lay ministries – of Lector, Acolyte and Catechist – have been approved for the Irish Catholic Church by the Irish Conference of Bishops – at their Spring meeting in Maynooth, March 7-9.

Recently opened as formally appointed roles to women also, the ministries of Lector and Acolyte are intended to complement the role of parish finance and pastoral councils in maintaining parish life when it may be impossible to have every parish headed by a resident parish priest. Parish Catechists will supplement the role of schools in faith formation and instruction in the parish, including, presumably adult faith formation, especially of parents.

Lectors have an important role in proclaiming the scriptural texts to be read at Mass, before the Gospel text – which is reserved for the priest alone.  The difference between proclaiming and reading a text is that proclamation requires an understanding of the meaning and ‘feeling’ of a text – and therefore prior practice and reflection, to catch and convey the ‘spirit’ of the text.  The lector will therefore help set the mood in which the entire sequence of texts is heard and absorbed.

The role of Acolyte is that of altar server and the carrying of candles in solemn procession. Traditionally a ‘minor order’ bestowed upon candidates for the priesthood, it will now have a more formal status than that of the altar server in the past.


The Bishops declare in their statement that the establishment of these Ministries reflects the “urgency being ever more felt today to rediscover the co-responsibility of all the baptised in the Church, and the mission of the laity in a particular way.”

“It is hoped that, as the Synodal Pathway in the Irish Church progresses, the development of these Ministries in the life of the Church will benefit from reflection and discernment.”

Working Group for Development of the Ministry of Catechist

“In relation to the Ministry of Catechist, the Bishops decided to establish a working group, including Bishops, priests, and lay people, to reflect on the establishment and development of this Ministry in Ireland. The group will work in conjunction with the Bishops’ Council for Catechetics.”



  1. Frank Gregg

    Re. The charism of Lector , it has been my unfortunate experience that I was overlooked without comment in my local parish.
    I did train some young readers in the rudiments of declaring the pre Gospel readings with some success , under the supervision of a local sister.
    I have 35 years of experience in our local Drama , becoming a fully qualified teacher with the London City and Guilds-preciously served as singular cantor, and Eucharistic minister.
    I submitted documentary guidelines for Lector to the parish.
    My only explanation is internal opposition by unqualified persons with the “ear” of the PP with inevitable results .

  2. Sean O'Conaill

    Hopefully, Frank, the formalisation of this ministry will lead to sensible guidelines for the selection of lectors, including discernment of relevant prior training and experience. At present I suspect that in most cases ‘readers’ are often appointed haphazardly, as though the task was a chore rather than a privilege – and this must affect the manner in which sacred texts are read – to the detriment of any true hearing and understanding.


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ACI’s Campaign for Lumen Gentium 37

The Promise of Synodality

What we have experienced of synodality so far gives ACI real hope that a longstanding structural injustice in the church may at last be acknowledged and overcome.

As all Irish bishops well know, the 'co-responsibility' they urge lay people to share - as numbers and energies of clergy decline - has been sabotaged time and again by canonical rules that deny representational authority and continuity to parish pastoral councils.  ACI's 2019 call for the immediate honouring of Lumen Gentium Article 37 becomes more urgent by the day and is supported by the following documents - also presented to the ICBC in October 2019.

The Common Priesthood of the People of God and the Renewal of the Church
It was Catholic parents and victims of clerical abuse who taught Catholic Bishops to prioritise the safeguarding of children in the church

Jesus as Model for the Common Priesthood of the People of God
It was for challenging religious hypocrisy and injustice that Jesus was accused and crucified. He is therefore a model for the common priesthood of the laity and for the challenging of injustice - in society and within the church.

A Suggested Strategy for the Recovery of the Irish and Western Catholic Church
Recovery of the church depends upon acknowledgment of the indispensable role of the common priesthood of the lay people of God and the explicit abandonment by bishops and clergy of paternalism and clericalism - the expectation of deference from lay people rather than honesty and integrity.

For the full story of ACI's campaign for the honouring of Article 37 of Lumen Gentium, click here.


"Come Holy Spirit, Renew Your wonders in this our day, as by a new Pentecost. Grant to Your Church that, being of one mind and steadfast in prayer with Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and following the lead of blessed Peter, it may advance the reign of our Divine Saviour, the reign of truth and justice, the reign of love and peace. Amen."

Saint Pope John XXIII, 1962 - In preparation for Vatican Council II, 1962-65.

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