Bishop Lobinger (South America) has written creatively about the future of ministry in the Catholic Church, in view of the impending, or real, shortage of priests in many parts of the world. His ideas are being discussed widely in some parts, especially Brazil and Germany. Below is a summary, in ten points, of the substance of Lobinger’s model.
Project “Teampriests from and for communities“:
1. Three communities will be selected for the project, which, — due to limited personal and financial resources–, will not have a priest in the foreseeable future. However, they are determined to preserve their parochial or communal independence and will continue celebrating the Sunday Eucharist.
2. These communities will have to this day given proof of their viability by providing services and by building pastoral groups. A “community team” will be established which will bear responsibility for the life and the activities of the community. In the event of an ordained “team of elders” at any later time, this team will continue being responsible for the community.
3. The communities will undergo a spiritual process of renewal, its aim being to instill a fundamental missionary attitude. As many as possible are to grow in a spiritual process, enabling them to respond to their baptismal calling by saying an individual adult adsum, which will transform mere community members to be witnesses to their faith.
4. Suitable persons are to be selected in the communities. They will come from the midst of communal life where they have already carried responsibilities and thus are already “personae probatae”. They are in command of sufficient professional experience. In general, they are prepared to get engaged on a voluntary basis.
5. The local bishop ensures that those selected will undergo an intensive theological and pastoral formation course of three years. This may be one connected with a High school/University. In the case of a bachelor degree it needs to comprise a special pastoral emphasis. Team leadership qualities are to be taken for granted.
In terms of church politics: a project for the world church.
6. The local bishop is to be empowered by way of exception of can 1042 § 1, to ordain them and to assign them to the “Team of Elders” of a community within the larger pastoral context.
7. Intensive support of local presbyteries. After ordination special emphasis will be given to an intensive spiritual and pastoral accompaniment through a competent priest companion. Thus the three year formation period will be continued and deepened. This priest cares judiciously for solid spiritual and pastoral standards in the Team of Elders in the various parishes.
8. Not recommendable is the exclusive ordination of “viri probati” in the traditional sense, the same applies to full time deacons. They would foreseeably prevent or minimise the communities’ advancement towards a missionary witness.
9. It is clear in consequence, that through the ordination of “personae probatae” an additional specific type of priests will emerge, which will compliment and enrich the traditional form of priestly service.
10. Gathering of celibate priests in regional working communities
The creation of local presbyteries initiates the possibility of celibate priests living in community. The survey PRIESTS 2000 indicates that under contemporary conditions celibacy is closely tied to communitarian lifestyles. Surprisingly the formation of local presbyteries provides a new chance for ensuring celibacy in future by making it practically viable.