Saturday was our semi-annual regional meeting of the Dominican Laity. The provincial promoter repeated a distinction that is one of his key messages to us, between ministry, which is service to the Church, and apostolate, which is a mission to the world. While ministry -- serving a congregation, a parish, a diocese -- is a good and noble thing, it is not the Dominican apostolate of giving to others the fruits of our contemplation.
That evening, as I recuperated at home, I came across a comment on a post at open book that drew attention to a webpage on which two priests address "the unique role of the laity and the challenges they face in their ministries." One priest looks to the laity to do what non-ordained members of religious congregations used to do:
So when people ask what will your lay ministry students do, since they won’t be ordained priests? — the answer is the same as it was in the past. They will be the backbone of the wide range of ministries the church needs, alongside the sacramental ministry of priests... They are trained to animate the faithful to engage in the social mission of the church, as well as to sustain its religious spirit.
The other priest looks to the laity to perform a uniquely lay role:
At Vatican Council II the unique role of the laity was tied to the Church’s secular mission: the laity were given a fundamental responsibility both for evangelization and for the renewal of the whole social order. This responsibility is not a delegated one, but something that the laity possess in their own right: they are appointed to the apostolate by Christ himself. Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, proposed that the laity should be thought to have their own office in the Church, distinct from the ordained.
The priest who wrote in terms of apostolate is a Dominican; the priest who wrote in terms of ministry isn't.