By Celine Klosterman
Sharon Crall harbors a passion for sharing her faith, and saw an opportunity to help clergy members with ministry amid a priest shortage.
So this fall, she joined four others in the Davenport Diocese in receiving diocesan permission to serve as lay preachers if needed. Bishop Martin Amos and Deacon Frank Agnoli, the diocese’s director of liturgy, met with the five parishioners to begin a one-year trial period in which the lay Catholics may preach in a priest’s or deacon’s absence. Preaching a homily during celebration of the Eucharist is reserved for clergy, but the lay people may preach at reconciliation or funeral services, a celebration of the Word or in other official situations as church representatives — with their pastor’s OK, said Deacon Agnoli.
The five people whom Bishop Amos gave permission to serve as lay preachers are Trish Gallagher, pastoral associate for Our Lady of Victory Parish in Davenport; Sister Irene Muñoz, CHM, multicultural minister for the Ottumwa area; Roberta Pegorick, religious education coordinator for Our Lady of the River Parish in LeClaire and Holy Family Parish in Davenport; Jackie Maddy, pastoral associate and religious education coordinator for St. Mary Parish in Albia; and Crall, RCIA coordinator and assistant religious education director for St. Mary’s in Albia.
All were nominated by their pastors. The women also all have taken required classes through the diocese’s Ministry Formation Programs (MFP) or the classes’ equivalents.
Outside of those five Catholics, two lay people have been able to preach as part of their parish life administrator (PLA) duties: Carol Kaalberg, 19-year PLA for St. Mary parishes in Lone Tree and Nichols, and Shirley Van Dee, one-year PLA for Ss. Joseph & Cabrini Parish in Richland.
Though more lay people may preach, Deacon Agnoli said he doesn’t expect they’ll need to do so often. But he said giving them the option could help ease burdens on stretched-thin priests and prepare for a future with potentially fewer clergy.
“I feel we need to be proactive instead of reactive,” said Kaalberg.
She has presided at wake services, ecumenical community services, Lenten services, weekday prayer services, and more. “Since I live within the community, I often know the stories of the people I serve, which enables me to share their experience at times of celebration and sorrow.”
Crall said, “I have a great love for evangelization and take seriously sharing my faith. I thought (preaching) was another way I could do that.” She has led a celebration of the Word with Communion when Father Mike Volkmer, CPPS, pastor of St. Mary’s in Albia, was gone, and appreciated being able to gather parishioners despite his absence.
She and the other four lay Catholics will meet with Deacon Agnoli and Bishop Amos this summer to discuss how things have gone. Afterward, they may be granted permission to preach for three years.