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Certification Glossary

This glossary contains working definitions used in USCCB Subcommittee on Certification for Ecclesial Ministry and Service publications. It is not intended to be definitive or exhaustive.

accreditation: The public status granted an institution or program by an authorized national or regional accrediting agency that assures the public the institution or program is in compliance with accreditation standards. Accreditation encourages the development of high-quality institutions and programs by reviewing an examination of mission, goals and objectives, curriculum, administration, faculty, resources, and achievements. Accreditation grants recognition to an institution or a program, thereby warranting public and professional confidence. The USCCB Subcommittee does not grant accreditation to formation programs, both clinical pastoral education and ministry formation but does offer consultation, upon request, to lay ministry formation programs and academic institutions for the purpose of improving the quality and effectiveness of these programs in accord with the guidance offered by Co-Workers in the Vineyard of the Lord and by other relevant pastoral documents of the USCCB and the universal magisterium.

accreditation body:  A recognized and voluntary nongovernmental agency that administers evaluation procedures and grants accreditation.

advisory committee:
  A committee composed of members both internal and external to a program that consults regularly with the program director regarding all aspects of the program and assists in the development of the program according to accreditation standards. Advisory committees or professional consultation committees function in the same manner.

Alliance for the Certification of Lay Ecclesial Ministries (ACLEM): The organization seeks to affirm and promote lay ecclesial ministry in parishes and dioceses throughout the United States. The Alliance is comprised of five national Catholic ministry organizations working collaboratively to produce common standards for lay ecclesial ministry and to implement and promote the certification of lay ecclesial ministers. The Alliance partners include: Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Subcommittees (FDLC), National Association for Lay Ministry (NALM), National Association of Pastoral Musicians (NPM), and National Conference for Catechetical Leadership (NCCL) and National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry (NFCYM). The USCCB Subcommittee first approved its certification standards in 2011. Web:

The first step in the evaluation process by which a program director and self-study committee examine every component of a clinical pastoral education or ministry formation program.

Association for Clinical Pastoral Education (ACPE): The ACPE is a national organization of ecumenical educators and ministers who elect accreditation subcommittee members from their regions to accredit clinical pastoral education programs. Its mission is to foster experience-based theological education which combines the practice of pastoral care with qualified supervision and peer-group reflection and which is grounded in a person-centered approach to religious ministry. The ACPE Accreditation Subcommittee accredits ACPE centers, and the ACPE Certification Subcommittee certifies CPE supervisors.

Catholic Campus Ministry Association (CCMA): A professional organization whose mission is to foster the professional and theological growth of Catholic campus ministers and to promote the mission of the Church in higher education. The subcommittee first approved its certification standards and procedures in 1992. Web:

certificate: A written statement that a participant has completed a program or course of studies through attendance, participation, and successful completion or program requirements.

certification: A formal process whereby a candidate’s competency in a specialized ministry is evaluated by an authorized committee in an arch/diocese or organization. The candidate is judged to have adequately demonstrated that he or she has met the certification standards of the arch/diocese or organization, and the candidate is granted formal recognition of achieving certification for a stipulated period of time before renewal of certification is due.

clinical pastoral education program (CPE): A program of ministry formation for chaplains administered in a clinical setting under the supervision of a certified CPE supervisor. It offers students a structured system of components, including a unified curriculum, a student learning contract, participation in peer groups, the practice of ministry in a supervised context with formal reporting of this ministry, theological reflection on ministry, a multidisciplinary approach, and an evaluation of the achievement of learning contract goals. The CPE program occurs within a specified time frame, called a CPE unit, during which participants strive for personal growth and professional competence as chaplains and ministers of pastoral care. The subcommittee accredits CPE programs using subcommittee accreditation standards that incorporate the NACC accreditation standards for CPE programs.

commendation: Acknowledgement in the self-study report that an individual, group, or program deserves special recognition.

competence:  The demonstrated and proven ability of candidates for certification to meet certification standards approved by the subcommittee.

competencies (core or specialized): Knowledge, skills, abilities, attitudes, values, and/or traits required to be eligible for certification in four major areas: human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral. Core competencies are foundational and common to all specialized ministries. Specialized competencies are unique to a particular specialized ministry.

competency: The requisite attainment of a level of proficiency associated with specific knowledge,skills, abilities, attitudes, values, and/or traits for a specialized ministry.

endorsement: The formal recognition by the bishop in the arch/diocese of a candidate’s residence, a candidate’s major religious superior if the candidate is a member of a religious congregation, or a candidate’s ordinary if the candidate is a diocesan priest, pastor, or deacon. Endorsement is given to Catholics who are in good standing in the church or to a program not under Catholic sponsorship that is seeking accreditation by the subcommittee.

equivalency: The documented and demonstrated ability to meet the archdiocesan requirements to be eligible for certification.

evaluation:  A formal and planned process after an assessment for determining whether accreditation standards have been met by all components of the program, as well as recognition of the strengths and limitations of the program.

Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Subcommittees (FDLC):
A national organization composed primarily of members of diocesan liturgical subcommittees, worship offices and/or the equivalent diocesan liturgical structures. These diocesan liturgical personnel, appointed by their bishops, have responsibility for the promotion of the liturgical life of their dioceses. The organization is a partner of the Alliance for the Certification of Lay Ecclesial Ministries (ACLEM). The subcommittee first approved its certification standards and procedures in 2011. Web:

guidelines: Suggestions for contents, procedures, and policies in developing, maintaining or evaluating programs.

initial accreditation: The first conferral of accreditation granted a clinical pastoral education or ministry formation program for a period of three years.

justice issues: A comprehensive concept that encompasses all aspects of justice, that is, cultural, economic, ecological, gender, political, racial, etc.

lay ecclesial minister: As described in the National Conference of Catholic Bishops Lay Ministry Subcommittee report entitled Lay Ecclesial Ministry: State of the Question, a lay ecclesial minister is a fully initiated lay member of the Christian faithful, including vowed religious, who responds to the empowerment and gifts of the Holy Spirit received in baptism and confirmation to participate in ministry; who has prepared himself or herself through a process of prayer discernment; who has received the necessary formation, education, and training to function competently within a given area of ministry; who intentionally brings personal competencies and gifts to serve in the Church’s mission through a specific ministry of ecclesial leadership, and who does so with community recognition and support; who has been entrusted with a formal and public role in ministry, or upon whom an office has been conferred by competent ecclesiastical authority; who has been installed in a ministry through the authority of the bishop or his representative, perhaps using a public ritual; who commits to performing the duties of a ministry in a stable manner; who is a paid staff person (full-time or part-time), or a volunteer with responsibility and the necessary authority for institutional leadership in a particular area of ministry.

limitation: A statement in a self-study or a site review report that indicates that a program needs to address an accreditation standard, criterion, guideline, process, policy, or procedure in order to improve the program.

ministerial priesthood: The ministerial or hierarchical priesthood of bishops and priests, and the common priesthood of all the faithful participate, "each in its own proper way, in the one priesthood of Christ." While being "ordered one to another," they differ in essence. (Pius XII, Mediator Dei, no.43, and Lumen Gentium, no.10)  While the common priesthood of the faithful is exercised by the unfolding of baptismal grace --a life of faith, hope, and charity, a life according to the Spirit--, the ministerial priesthood is at the service of the common priesthood. It is directed at the unfolding of the baptismal grace of all Christians. It is a mission of service in the likeness of Jesus who came to serve and not be served.  The ministerial priesthood is a privileged means by which Christ unceasingly builds up and leads his Church prolonging His mission throughout time.  For this reason it is transmitted by its own sacrament, the sacrament of Holy Orders(CCC, nos. 1542, 1547).

The characteristics which differentiate the ministerial priesthood of Bishops and Priests from the common priesthood of the faithful may be summarized in the following fashion: 1) the ministerial priesthood is rooted in the Apostolic Succession, and vested with the faculty and the responsibility of acting in the person of Christ the Head and the Shepherd (Pope John Paul II, Pastores Dabo Vobis #14) and 2) it is a priesthood which renders its sacred ministers servants of Christ and of the Church by means of authoritative proclamation of the Word of God, the administration of the sacraments and the pastoral direction of the faithful. In other words the ministerial priesthood continues the mission received by the Apostles from Christ.   For these reasons, the path of formation for seminarians is categorically distinct from that of candidates for lay ecclesial ministry.  In the same way, the lay ecclesial minister necessitates a program of formation proper to his or her form of ministry or service in the Church.

ministry formation program: A program to assist the participants with understanding their gifts, call, role, and mission in the Church and in the world, and with developing skills to respond to the call. Components of a program include a mission, goals and objections based on the perspectives of the Vatican II and post-conciliar documents, and the needs of the local Church; a curriculum based on the program’s mission and it’s goals and objectives that integrates spiritual, theological, personal, and professional formation; a program director who administers the program; instructional faculty who assist in the formation process; and sufficient resources for the program to operate according to its mission.

National Association of Catholic Chaplains (NACC): The NACC, as a national association of certified Catholic chaplains and CPE supervisors, aspires to be the forum for dialogue between the Catholic Church and chaplaincy in responding to new realities and the initiation of continual renewal and transformation of the practice of chaplaincy. (

National Association for Lay Ministry (NALM):
A professional organization that supports, educates, and advocates for lay ministers and promotes the development of lay ministry in the Catholic Church. The organization is a partner of the Alliance for the Certification of Lay Ecclesial Ministries (ACLEM). The subcommittee approved its certification standards in 1994. (

National Conference of Catechetical Leadership (NCCL):
A professional organization for catechetical leaders that provides networking, resources, and training opportunities for its members and those engaged in catechetical ministry. The organization is a partner of the Alliance for the Certification of Lay Ecclesial Ministries (ACLEM). The subcommittee approved its certification standards in 1996. (

National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry (NFCYM):
An organization of diocesan, regional, and national structures encompassing the United States and its territories that strives to raise awareness of and to foster the ongoing development of ministry to, with, by, and for youth. The organization is a partner of the Alliance for the Certification of Lay Ecclesial Ministries (ACLEM). The subcommittee first approved its certification standards in 1990. (

National Association of Pastoral Musicians (NPM): A membership organization composed primarily of musicians, musician-liturgists, clergy, and other leaders of prayer. NPM is devoted to serving the life and mission of the church by fostering the art of musical liturgy in Catholic worshiping communities. The organization is a partner of the Alliance for the Certification of Lay Ecclesial Ministries (ACLEM). The subcommittee approved standards and procedures in 2005. (

ongoing formation:
The ongoing program of academic studies, days of reflection or retreat, lectures, readings, workshops, etc. which enhances the competencies of specialized ministers. Ongoing formation is often understood as continuing education. Formation includes educational experiences.

organization: The term used for a national professional organization of specialized ecclesial ministers or an organizational structure in a region or state Catholic conference that submits certification standards, or certification standards and procedures, to the Subcommittee for approval.

periodic review cycle:
A period of seven years during which an accredited ministry formation program strives to fulfill the recommendations of the last periodic review and to respond to changing needs of the local Church and participants.

policy: A set of rules and/or directions in a designated area congruent with accreditation standards, procedures, and guidelines by which decisions are made.

procedure:  A set of mandatory steps to be followed in a regular and defined order for the accomplishment of a designated purpose.

program response report: A report sent to the Subcommittee that is written by a program director and advisory committee after receiving a site review report. It states when and how recommendations in the site review report will be integrated into the program.

recommendation: A statement in a site review report for an advisory course of action for program improvement.

renewal of certification:
A process through which candidates certified by the arch/diocese demonstrate their commitment to maintain and enhance the competencies called for by certification standards and requirements for renewal of certification after a period of time designated by the organization or arch/diocesan office.

review: The formal process of assessment or examination of all components of a program in order to recognize program strengths and limitation, and to evaluate whether the program is in compliance with accreditation standards.

self-study committee:  A committee designated to assist in the self-study process and writing of the self-study report. For some programs, the advisory committee serves as the self-study committee.

self-study process:
A period of time within which a program director and an advisory/self-study committee carefully examine all the components of a program for compliance with accreditation standards, policies, and procedures, identify the strengths and limitations of the program, and make recommendations for improving the quality of the program.

self-study report:  A report written by a program director and self-study committee stating the results of the self-study process and the program’s compliance with accreditation standards. The report also includes a description of the strengths, limitations, noncompliance with standards, and recommendations to improve or change the program.

site review: Review of a program by a site reviewer that includes evaluation of interviews, an oral report of findings, and a written report of a site reviewer of these findings.

site reviewer: A reviewer that is appointed by the subcommittee, who meets established criteria and travels to the site of a program in order to interview those involved in it and to evaluate whether the conclusions of the self-study report are evidenced in the way the program is functioning.

report of a site reviewer: The written report of a site review committee to the program director and subcommittee that states the reviewers’ findings regarding the program’s process of self-study review, compliance with standards, affirmation of strengths, recognition of limitations, and recommendations to improve the program.

sponsor: The authority that partially or totally finances a clinical pastoral education or ministry formation program so that it can operate.

standard: Criteria established by accrediting agencies by which programs are assessed and evaluated for compliance, and criteria established by organizations by which the competence of ministers is assessed and evaluated for certification.

subcommittee: The body synonymous with the term USCCB Subcommittee.The term used for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Subcommittee on Certification for Ecclesial Ministry and Service. The USCCB Subcommittee has a mandate from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to establish, review and approve standards and procedures to be used on a voluntary basis by arch/dioceses and national organizations for the certification of ecclesial ministers.  It also offers consultative services aimed at improving the quality of lay ministry formation programs that are sponsored by arch/dioceses and by academic institutions.

subcommittee-approved: A phrase that refers to the approval of certification standards or approval of the certification standards and procedures for certifying specialized ecclesial ministers by arch/dioceses and organizations.


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