By Celine Klosterman
When her parish’s pastor is called out to a funeral and can’t celebrate weekday Mass, Jackie Maddy appreciates being able to gather people for a prayer and Communion service.
The pastoral associate and director of religious education at St. Mary Parish in Albia has done so a handful of times this past year as a lay preacher. Last week, she received permission to continue doing so for another three years. She’s among five women in the Davenport Diocese who recently wrapped up a yearlong trial period in which they were allowed to preach, if needed, in a priest’s or deacon’s absence. All five Catholics have now been reappointed to preach for another three years, after meeting over the past 12 months with Deacon Frank Agnoli, the diocese’s liturgy director.
The five Catholics are Sister Irene Muñoz, CHM, multicultural minister for the Ottumwa area; Roberta Pegorick, religious education director for Our Lady of the River Parish in LeClaire and Holy Family Parish in Davenport; Trish Gallagher, pastoral associate for faith formation for Our Lady of Victory Parish in Davenport; Sharon Crall, RCIA coordinator and assistant religious education director for St. Mary’s in Albia and pastoral associate at St. Patrick’s in Georgetown; and Maddy.
They had previously been nominated by their pastors when the diocese sought names of people who might lead Sunday Celebrations in the Absence of a Priest (SCAP). The women also have taken required classes through the diocese’s Ministry Formation Program or the classes’ equivalents.
They 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, according to Deacon Agnoli. But preaching a homily during celebration of the Eucharist is reserved for clergy.
“I think this is something that’s going to be more important than ever because we don’t have as many priests as in the past,” Pegorick said of lay preaching. The Diocesan Planning Commission projects that from 2010-2020, more than twice as many priests in parish ministry in the diocese will reach retirement age as will be ordained.
Pegorick has led several SCAPs at the LeClaire parish and said she’s honored and grateful for the opportunity to serve in such a way.
Though Gallagher hasn’t led a Catholic service in a priest or deacon’s absence, she said the “wonderful” education she’s received in meetings with Deacon Agnoli helped her as spiritual director for a Christian Experience Weekend and in her work with the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults.
Like Gallagher, Sr. Muñoz said she hasn’t led a service since being appointed a lay preacher a year ago. But she offers a monthly Scripture reflection for the Hispanic community in Ottumwa.
Lay people “have gifts and talents to be shared; it’s very helpful for pastors to have someone immediately available” in a priest’s absence, said Father Mike Volkmer, C.PP.S. He is pastor of St. Mary’s in Albia.
He said parishioners have voiced thanks for the services that both Crall and Maddy have led there. “People are very accepting of it.”
The more often lay people preach, the better parishioners receive it, Crall said. In addition to the Albia services, she has led a SCAP at St. Mary Parish in Centerville when that parish’s pastor was unable to return from an out-of-town trip in time for Mass.
Opportunities to share resources are especially important in rural areas such as Albia and Centerville, she said. Those towns each have fewer than 6,000 people.
“Small faith communities need people who are willing to step out and take a risk,” Maddy said. “It’s very humbling to try to do this.”
She looks forward to growing as a lay preacher. “The one thing I really enjoy is the sense that the prayer of the church continues” even when an ordained minister can’t be present, she said.