A third topic that was addressed at the 1996 international gathering on the "Lay Dimension of the Capuchin Vocation" was ministry. In 1996, there were still many brothers involved in their traditional works, such as cooks, gardeners, porters, ecc., but most of the Conferences reported that brothers were also involved in non-traditional ministries, as well. There were teachers, bursars, formation directors, administrators of schools, and other types of ministry. This openness to new forms of ministry was not appreciated by everyone, not even by all the lay brothers of the world. Some felt that a professional education and the abandonment of manual labor would lead to the destruction of the traditional figure of the lay brother. In some parts of the world, lay brothers were criticized by others in the fraternity for accepting ministries outside the friary.
A difficulty encountered by friars in many parts of the world was a lack of ministries open to lay brothers, especially in areas of the world where the friars were heavily involved in parish ministry. In one or two areas of the world, lay friars were still not given an opportunity to do anything other than manual labor.
In regard to ministry, the situation for lay brothers has changed substantially in the last eleven years. Most friars have a range of ministerial opportunities open to them and are allowed, if not actively encouraged, to exploit those opportunities. Even in the country from which I heard the most complaints in 1996, the lay friars there today say they are very satisfied with the range of ministries open to them. Today, you will find many lay friars working in fields that require a high level of professional training. Many are involved in formation and vocations promotion.
The one possible exception to this otherwise very positive picture is in those countries where friars are heavily involved in parish ministry. Lay friars in these countries often feel a little like a fifth wheel. I have heard from several brothers that they have basically been told to go out and find their own job. While some friars might relish this kind of freedom, many brothers take this as a sign that they are not needed in the province. To put it another way, they are made to feel that they are not an important part of the province's mission.