Accompaniment has emerged as one of the themes of Pope Francis’ ministry. But the theme described as “A formation that makes provision for accompanying the disciples” looks first to the hierarchy:
282. Each sector of the People of God asks to be accompanied and formed, in keeping with the particular vocation and ministry to which it has been called: the bishop is the principle of unity in the diocese through the threefold ministry of teaching, sanctifying, and governing; priests by cooperating with the ministry of the bishop in care for the people of God entrusted to them; permanent deacons in life-giving, humble, and persevering service as valuable aid to bishops and priests; consecrated men and women in radical following of the Master; laymen and laywomen who carry out their evangelizing responsibility by collaborating in forming Christian communities and in building the Kingdom of God in the world. Training is therefore required for those who can accompany others spiritually and pastorally.
It’s a fine thing to cite “teaching, sanctifying, and governing,” but the face of that looks very different depending on the persons encountered and the situation. What kind of training is involved? Step one is to cultivate listening as a skill. Another would be the ability to discern with another person. A third would be the ability to organize a faith community and to be open to administrative skills like delegating authority and tasks, especially focusing on how to form disciples whose primary witness is in the world:
283. We emphasize that the formation of lay men and women must contribute primarily to an activity as missionary disciples in the world, from the standpoint of dialogue and transformation of society. Specific formation so that they can have a significant impact on different fields is imperative, especially in the vast and complicated world of politics, society and economics, but also the world of culture, of the sciences and the arts, of international life, of the mass media. It also includes other realities which are open to evangelization.(Evangelii Nuntiandi 70)
That reference from Pope Paul VI’s document is appropriate. Five years ago we did some extended commentary on it here. Notable to me then and today is the idea that church leaders often bury and suffocate the charisms of the laity. That’s a startling admission from a pope who is not named Francis.
For deeper examination, an English translation of the 2007 document from the Aparecida Conference.