Religious education teachers, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, lectors, musicians, committee members, synod representatives and visitors.

These are but a few of the roles laypersons have in building up the Catholic community in Vermont.

They feel called to serve, to live their faith and to grow in their faith.

“Everyone has something they can offer to others,” said Marie Cookson of St. Jude the Apostle Parish in Hinesburg. She is involved in music ministry, brings Communion to persons who cannot get to church and organizes a Christmas program for needy children — among other things.

“I do these volunteer projects because there is a need, and I feel I can do something to fill that need,” she said. “It is my hope that through past experiences I can share my story and encourage others that may be dealing with these same issues. In participating in these projects, I feel I am living my faith, that my actions speak louder than words.”

Every parish has people like Cookson who generously share their time and talents to strengthen the Church and to uplift its people.

One of them is Patrick Leduc of St. John Vianney Parish in South Burlington. Among his service to the parish he chairs the Vocations Committee and is an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion and offers twice monthly small group conversations on exploring how people can be more fully present during the liturgy.

“Each of us are called to serve in our own unique way,” he said. “With this new and ever-evolving insight I am much more willing to acknowledge how my service does build up the Church. Through my authentic, joyful living and service, I may be part of someone else’s seeking of that same joy.”

Christopher Noble of St. Anthony Parish in White River Junction is involved with the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults and religious education, is a lector, extraordinary minister of Holy Communion and part of the Adult Bible Study group. “The Church in Vermont really needs all of us to serve and work,” he said. “The call to holiness is not just for the clergy and religious, it is also very much for us and is something best shared in service and community.”

Kathleen Murphy of St. John the Baptist Parish in North Bennington is the chairperson of the parish council and helps coordinate the New Evangelization/Spiritual Life Committee. She is the parish synod representative and an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion and a past confirmation catechist. “I feel that the New Evangelization/Spiritual Life Committee is the most urgent ministry because it helps provide opportunities for fellow parishioners to deepen their faith and perhaps bring back Catholics who have stepped away from their faith,” she said.

Her service to the parish is a calling and supports the priests in their mission. “Volunteering has deepened my faith, my sense of community and gives me a chance to use the gifts that God has given me,” she said.

Because priests have so many demands on them, she wants to support them in any way possible. “We each need to recognize that we can make a difference as lay missionary disciples and share our faith with others through our actions and example,” she said. “Hopefully our efforts will lead to more people understanding how the Catholic faith fills their emptiness and promises salvation.”

For Leduc, the primary reward of serving the Church is the peace and sense of love that that comes with it.

“I no longer feel empty or think something is missing, only that I must get much closer, and with His grace, become more like the models of love and virtue He gave us — His Blessed Mother Mary and her son Jesus,” Noble said.

Leduc has found that “once you find the place you are called to be, you become so energized that it’s hard to explain. That’s your true self living the service you were called to.”

For him, the personal joy that comes from humbly serving others “fills me up more than anything else.”

It’s something to think about.

“As our Church goes forward with less and less priests, laypeople need to step up now more than ever,” Murphy said.

—Originally published in the Winter 2018 issue of  Vermont Catholic magazine.