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Lifting lay leaders

  • 23 March 2012

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council. In the previous interview on Eureka Street TV, the prominent lay Catholic leader Robert Fitzgerald reflected on changes in the role of the laity promised by the Council. The woman featured in this week's interview shares this pet subject area.

As a respected lay theologian, Zeni Fox embodies the vast changes in the role of the laity that have occurred since Vatican II. She has spent her working life studying, fostering, teaching, talking and writing about lay leadership in the Catholic Church.

The interview was recorded late last year at a Sydney conference where she delivered the keynote address, 'Lay leaders of Catholic institutions: serving the Church and the world'.

Fox is a professor of pastoral theology at Immaculate Conception Seminary, Seton Hall University near Newark in New Jersey, USA. She previously worked for 15 years in the area of religious education in Catholic parishes.

She gained her Masters degree in religious education and PhD in theology from the Jesuit run Fordham University in New York. Her doctoral thesis was entitled 'Lay ministries: a critical three-dimensional study'.

For over 15 years she has been an advisor to the US Bishops' Committee on the Laity and its subcommittee on lay ministry. In this capacity she has participated in many consultations with a wide range of Church representatives including bishops and clergy, lay leaders and theologians from the US and abroad.

She has sat on the boards of a number of important Catholic institutions in the US, including chairing the governance committee of the prestigious publication, the National Catholic Reporter.

In recent years Fox has been closely involved in the New Energies process in the Archdiocese of Newark which has sought to rationalise and modernise parish structures through mergers and linkages between parishes.

She has received many awards for scholarship and service to the community and church, including honorary doctorates from Christ the King Seminary, Buffalo, and Georgian Court University, Lakewood.

She has written scores of articles, and written or edited a number of books including New Ecclesial Ministry: Lay Professionals Serving the Church, Called and Chosen: Toward a Spirituality for Lay Leaders (co-editor) and Lay Ecclesial Ministry: Pathways Toward the Future (editor). 

Peter Kirkwood is a freelance writer and video