„You are the salt of the earth. […] You are the light of the world.“ (Mt 5, 13.14)
Already in these words used by Jesus to address the large crowd of people that has gathered to listen to his famous Sermon on the Mount, the mission to make his Gospel audible and visible in the world can be found.„Go therefore, and make disciples of all the nations […]“ (Mt 28,19)This mission of the Lord is still valid today and it is directed to everybody who believes in Him.
The Church’s mission goes back to Jesus Christ Himself. He calls upon all the faithful, irrespective of their sex, their origin and their age to live and to celebrate the faith and to give testimony to it. This shall not only happen in the parish but in all fields of human life: in the family, with friends, in leisure time and at the place of work.
The professions of the Church provide special possibilities; in addition to the ministry there are also full-time church-related jobs for the laity.
Priests fulfil many different services and tasks. They celebrate the Eucharist and they administer the sacraments. They talk with people on vital issues; support them in times of conflict and crisis, sickness and old age. The priest is pastor and leader of the parish community, he teaches religion, he works with children and adolescents and in the field of adult education, and he works as chaplain in hospitals, prisons and senior citizen facilities.
The priest shall enable the faithful of his time to experience first-hand that God’s good-will to men is stimulating the Church, which goes back to Jesus Christ Himself. By his ministry and his way of life the priest shall bear witness to this and he shall be an example to all the faithful.
So for the Church of today it is very important to strengthen the profession of the priests as a real option for a human life full of commitment.
The word deacon originates from the Greek word „diakonos“ which means „servant“ or „helper“. This translation describes what the so-called Permanent Deacon has to do: „In the service of the word, the altar and of charity the Deacon acts on behalf of everyone.“ With these words the bishop ordains the Permanent Deacon for his ecclesiastical office in the name of Jesus Christ.
The office of Permanent Deacon can be held in connection with a civilian occupation or it can be held full-time. The Permanent Deacon can be married and have a family which is not possible for priests.
Usually the full-time Deacon works in the parish community but he can also take part in services concerning regional, diocesan or association matters. Deacons who practice their office in connection with a civilian occupation use to practise their main profession and provide pastoral care in their home parish.
Permanent Deacons accompany parish life, are active in social matters and assist the priest in preaching the gospel and celebrating the sacraments. They can celebrate the Liturgy of the Word and they assist during Holy Mass. They officiate at baptisms, weddings and conduct funeral services.
In Germany there were 3,000 people working as Permanent Deacons in 2008, with 1,800 practicing their office in connection with a civilian occupation, and 1,100 being full-time Deacons.
Since the 1970ies two relatively new pastoral professions have gained much importance in German dioceses: men and women decide to work as parish assistants or pastoral assistants. In 2008 about 7,500 people were working in these professions in Germany.
Both church-related professions do not require an ordination. For this reason they can be practised by all baptised and confirmed lay people, women and men. Both professions arose from an impulse of the Second Vatican Council, and the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen gentium, says:
„Besides this apostolate which certainly pertains to all Christians, the laity can also be called in various ways to a more direct form of cooperation in the apostolate of the Hierarchy […]“ (LG 33)
Parish assistants focus on pastoral service for the parish in cooperation with priests and deacons. They prepare children and adolescents for baptism, First Communion and Confirmation, they teach religion and they assist the different bodies and groups in the parish community.
The occupation of pastoral assistant is still young. They have found work in various areas of pastoral work in the parishes, on a regional or diocesan level, in the fields of education and administration and in pastoral cooperation with people committed to societal, social or charity issues outside the Church.
The occupation of parish assistant requires studies of the theory of religious education whereas the occupation of pastoral assistant requires university studies with a degree in theology.