Ministering in a non-Catholic setting

Greetings from a brand new participant. I am a revert to Catholicism after 30 years of ordained ministry in the Reformed Church in America. Very thankful, blessed, and happy.
Before retiring last year, I served as Chaplain at a nearby retirement community. I’ve already declined several requests to do do funerals and pulpit supply at local congregations. But, I am uncertain about the actual boundaries on ministry for someone like me. I certainly understand about the Sacraments, but what about ordinary services and worship? Am I prohibited from leading or participating in non-Catholic ministry? Thanks for any help.

I’m pretty sure something like this isn’t allowed.

Thanks, I appreciate that. “Pretty sure” is where I am already, just looking for a more specific source.

That’s quite a unique situation. You said you’ve retired so I don’t imagine you are pursuing Catholic ordination or the diaconate at this point. I wonder if this Vatican document could help?


Starting at paragraph 102 it says…


General Principles

  1. Christians may be encouraged to share in spiritual activities and resources, i.e., to share that spiritual heritage they have in common in a manner and to a degree appropriate to their present divided state.113

  2. The term “sharing in spiritual activities and resources” covers such things as prayer offered in common, sharing in liturgical worship in the strict sense, as described below in n.116, as well as common use of sacred places and of all necessary objects.

  3. The principles which should direct this spiritual sharing are the following:

a) In spite of the serious difficulties which prevent full ecclesial communion, it is clear that all those who by baptism are incorporated into Christ share many elements of the Christian life. There thus exists a real, even if imperfect, communion among Christians which can be expressed in many ways, including sharing in prayer and liturgical worship,114 as will be indicated in the paragraph which follows.

b) According to Catholic faith, the Catholic Church has been endowed with the whole of revealed truth and all the means of salvation as a gift which cannot be lost.115 Nevertheless, among the elements and gifts which belong to the Catholic Church (e.g.; the written Word of God, the life of grace, faith, hope and charity etc.) many can exist outside its visible limits. The Churches and ecclesial Communities not in full communion with the Catholic Church have by no means been deprived of signi- ficance and value in the mystery of salvation, for the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as means of salvation.116 In ways that vary according to the condition of each Church or ecclesial Community, their celebrations are able to nourish the life of grace in their members who participate in them and provide access to the communion of salvation.117

c) The sharing of spiritual activities and resources, therefore, must reflect this double fact:

  1. the real communion in the life of the Spirit which already exists among Christians and is expressed in their prayer and liturgical worship;

  2. the incomplete character of this communion because of differences of faith and understanding which are incompatible with an unrestricted mutual sharing of spiritual endowments.

d) Fidelity to this complex reality makes it necessary to establish norms for spiritual sharing which take into account the diverse ecclesial situations of the Churches and ecclesial Communities involved, so that, as Christians esteem and rejoice in the spiritual riches they have in common, they are also made more aware of the necessity of overcoming the separations which still exist.

e) Since Eucharistic concelebration is a visible manifestation of full communion in faith, worship and community life of the Catholic Church, expressed by ministers of that Church, it is not permitted to concelebrate the Eucharist with ministers of other Churches or ecclesial Communities.118

  1. There should be a certain “reciprocity” since sharing in spiritual activities and resources, even with defined limits, is a contribution, in a spirit of mutual good will and charity, to the growth of harmony among Christians.

  2. It is recommended that consultations on this sharing take place between appropriate Catholic authorities and those of other Communions to seek out the possibilities for lawful reciprocity according to the doctrine and traditions of different Communities.

  3. Catholics ought to show a sincere respect for the liturgical and sacramental discipline of other Churches and ecclesial Communities and these in their turn are asked to show the same respect for Catholic discipline. One of the objectives of the consultation mentioned above should be a greater mutual understanding of each other’s discipline and even an agreement on how to manage a situation in which the discipline of one Church calls into question or conflicts with the discipline of another.

Prayer in Common

  1. Where appropriate, Catholics should be encouraged, in accordance with the Church’s norms, to join in prayer with Christians of other Churches and ecclesial Communities. Such prayers in common are certainly a very effective means of petitioning for the grace of unity, and they are a genuine expression of the ties which still bind Catholics to these other Christians.119 Shared prayer is in itself a way to spiritual reconciliation.

  2. Prayer in common is recommended for Catholics and other Christians so that together they may put before God the needs and problems they share—e.g., peace, social concerns, mutual charity among people, the dignity of the family, the effects of poverty, hunger and violence, etc. The same may be said of occasions when, according to circumstances, a nation, region or community wishes to make a common act of thanksgiving or petition to God, as on a national holiday, at a time of public disaster or mourning, on a day set aside for remembrance of those who have died for their country, etc. This kind of prayer is also recommended when Christians hold meetings for study or common action.

  3. Shared prayer should, however, be particularly concerned with the res- toration of Christian unity. It can centre, e.g. on the mystery of the Church and its unity, on baptism as a sacramental bond of unity, or on the renewal of personal and community life as a necessary means to achieving unity. Prayer of this type is particularly recommended during the “Week of Prayer for Christian Unity” or in the period between Ascension and Pentecost.

  4. Representatives of the Churches, ecclesial Communities or other groups concerned should cooperate and prepare together such prayer. They should decide among themselves the way in which each is to take part, choose the themes and select the Scripture readings, hymns and prayers.

a) In such a service there is room for any reading, prayer and hymn which manifest the faith or spiritual life shared by all Christian people. There is a place for an exhortation, address or biblical meditation drawing on the common Christian inheritance; and able to promote mutual good will and unity.

b) Care should be taken that the versions of Holy Scripture used be acceptable to all and be faithful translations of the original text.

c) It is desirable that the structure of these celebrations should take account of the different patterns of community prayer in harmony with the liturgical renewal in many Churches and ecclesial Communities, with particular regard being given to the common heritage of hymns, of texts taken from lectionaries and of liturgical prayers.

d) When services are arranged between Catholics and those of an Eastern Church, particular attention should be given to the liturgical discipline of each Church, in accordance with n. 115 below.

112 Although a church building is a place in which a community is normally accustomed to celebrating its own liturgy, the common services mentioned above may be celebrated in the church of one or other of the communities concerned, if that is acceptable to all the participants. Whatever place is used should be agreeable to all, be capable of being properly prepared and be conducive to devotion.

  1. Where there is a common agreement among the participants, those who have a function in a ceremony may use the dress proper to their ecclesiastical rank and to the nature of the celebration.

  2. Under the direction of those who have proper formation and experience, it may be helpful in certain cases to arrange for spiritual sharing in the form of days of recollection, spiritual exercises, groups for the study and sharing of traditions of spirituality, and more stable associations for a deeper exploration of a common spiritual life. Serious attention must always be given to what has been said concerning the recognition of the real differences of doctrine which exist, as well as to the teaching and discipline of the Catholic Church concerning sacramental sharing.

  3. Since the celebration of the Eucharist on the Lord’s Day is the foundation and centre of the whole liturgical year,120 Catholics—but those of Eastern Churches according to their own Law121—are obliged to attend Mass on that day and on days of precept.122 It is not advisable therefore to organize ecumenical services on Sundays, and it must be remembered that even when Catholics participate in ecumenical services or in services of other Churches and ecclesial Communities, the obligation of participating at Mass on these days remains.

Sharing in Non-Sacramental Liturgical Worship

  1. By liturgical worship is meant worship carried out according to books, prescriptions and customs of a Church or ecclesial Community, presided over by a minister or delegate of that Church or Community. This liturgical worship may be of a non-sacramental kind, or may be the celebration of one or more of the Christian sacraments. The concern here is non-sacramental worship.

  2. In some situations, the official prayer of a Church may be preferred to ecumenical services specially prepared for the occasion. Participation in such celebrations as Morning or Evening Prayer, special vigils, etc., will enable people of different liturgical traditions—Catholic, Eastern, Anglican and Protestant—to understand each other’s community prayer better and to share more deeply in traditions which often have developed from common roots.

  3. In liturgical celebrations taking place in other Churches and ecclesial Communities, Catholics are encouraged to take part in the psalms, responses, hymns and common actions of the Church in which they are guests. If invited by their hosts, they may read a lesson or preach.

  4. Regarding assistance at liturgical worship of this type, there should be a meticulous regard for the sensibilities of the clergy and people of all the Christian Communities concerned, as well as for local customs which may vary according to time, place, persons and circumstances. In a Catholic liturgical celebration, ministers of other Churches and ecclesial Communities may have the place and liturgical honors proper to their rank and their role, if this is judged desirable. Catholic clergy invited to be present at a celebration of another Church or ecclesial Community may wear the appropriate dress or insignia of their ecclesiastical office, if it is agreeable to their hosts.

  5. In the prudent judgment of the local Ordinary, the funeral rites of the Catholic Church may be granted to members of a non-Catholic Church or ecclesial Community, unless it is evidently contrary to their will and provided that their own minister is unavailable,123 and that the general provisions of Canon Law do not forbid it.124

  6. Blessings ordinarily given for the benefit of Catholics may also be given to other Christians who request them, according to the nature and object of the blessing. Public prayer for other Christians, living or dead, and for the needs and intentions of other Churches and ecclesial Communities and their spiritual heads may be offered during the litanies and other invocations of a liturgical service, but not during the Eucharistic Anaphora. Ancient Christian liturgical and ecclesiological tradition permits the specific mention in the Eucharistic Anaphora only of the names of persons who are in full communion with the Church celebrating the Eucharist.

Welcome back!

I will suggest you to contact and have a talk about your role with your catholic pastor. And maybe with your bishop.

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