Thomas F. O'Meara, O.P.
[Paulist Press, 1999]
Paulist Press has just published a new, "completely revised" edition of my book, "Theology of Ministry." "Theology of Ministry" was published in 1983 and remained in print for fifteen years through 1997; it was widely used in seminaries, graduate theology schools, and in courses for the preparation of lay ministers.
The new edition retains, revises, and expands the earlier text. The important sections and themes treating baptized and ordained ministry remain. Some sections have been edited and condensed. Two chapters, the first and the last, are largely new. The first locates the remarkable expansion of ministry in the context of recent decades, while the last chapter, "The Spirituality of Ministry," looks at the spirituality of those who minister.
Theology of Ministry was written after a decade in which thousands of Catholics sought education and positions in church ministry. That book was not a prescription for what should be done in the church, nor a prediction of the future, but a reflection on the diocese and parish as they had changed after 1968 It tried to explain why the ministry in the Catholic Church had been expanding since Vatican II, and how this new ecclesiology was related to the New Testament's views of ministry. It did not at all challenge the ministries of bishop and presbyter but located them centrally in churches where other ministries were now present. Some found the book realistic and practical; both advocates and critics cited its definition of ministry.
Parishes have since the 1960s fashioned a new model of parish: not that of pastor and assistants with sisters in the school but a new model of circles of ministry around the pastor or bishop. Theology of Ministry sketches a fundamental theology of ministry to explain that new model from biblical, historical, and theological perspectives. Catholics are still, thirty years after Vatican II, experiencing a deep upheaval in church structure in terms of Christian history. This book seeks to explain lucidly why ministry has been changing under the aegis of the Holy Spirit so that the church may serve more people in more cultures in more ministries.