Welcome from the Chairman

Welcome from the Chairman

Greetings from Bishop Gerald Kicanas, chairman of the USCCB’s Subcommittee on Certification for Ecclesial Ministry and Service as he explains the subcommittee’s work.


The Subcommittee on Certification for Ecclesial Ministry and Service assists the bishops in reviewing and approving certification standards and procedures to be used on a voluntary basis by arch/dioceses and national organizations in the certification of specialized 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.

Key Mission Responsibilities

  1. Embody the concerns and priorities of the bishops of the United States for ministry, namely, that those who minister in the name of the Catholic Church, each according to his or her status in the Church, are humanly and spiritually mature, well-prepared through education and formation, possess professional competence and pastoral skills, and adhere to the authentic teaching of the Church.
  2. Review and approve sets of competency-based certification standards and certification procedures that have been developed for voluntary use by dioceses and national associations for various ministry specializations in such roles as campus minister, parish catechetical leader, youth minister, pastoral associate, director of music ministries, as well as hospital, prison, and seafarer chaplaincies.
  3. Promote the development and application of voluntary certification standards for specialized ministry that are based on expectations and competencies reflected in the four areas of formation outlined in the U.S. bishops' document Co-Workers in the Vineyard of the Lord,* namely, human, intellectual, spiritual and pastoral.
  4. Offer consultation, upon request, to lay ministry formation programs in arch/dioceses 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.

Vea la versión en español de este texto - Colaboradores en la viña del Señor - aquí.

Key Mission Relationships

  1. With the USCCB Committee on Catholic Education and other Conference committees, sub-committees, task forces, and offices, especially the Committees on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, Evangelization and Catechesis, Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, Communications, and Cultural Diversity in the Church.
  2. With bishops, Church institutions and leadership personnel of national ministry associations, academic institutions, and diocesan offices.

Scope of Approval of Certification Standards

The USCCB Subcommittee only approves certification standards and procedures for arch/diocesan offices, national organizations of specialized ministers listed in The Official Catholic Directory which are federally recognized 501(c)3 organizations, and organizations or joint-sponsored programs of state or regional Catholic Conferences.

A list of arch/diocesan offices, national organizations of ecclesial ministers, and state Catholic Conferences with approved certification standards and procedures are available here.

Brief History of the Subcommittee

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' Commission on Certification and Accreditation (USCCB/CCA) was established under a mandate by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB) in 1982, and incorporated as a programmatic accrediting agency to accredit clinical pastoral education and ministry formation programs and approve certification standards and procedures in 1983. Since its foundation, the USCCB/CCA accredited clinical pastoral education programs. In 1995, it also began to accredit ministry formation programs.

In addition, since its foundation, the USCCB/CCA also approved the certification standards and procedures submitted by national organizations of ecclesial ministers. Beginning in 1993, the Commission started reviewing the certification standards and procedures of specialized ecclesial ministers submitted by arch/diocesan offices. In 2004, the commission approved the first state-wide certification standards and procedures submitted by the Minnesota Catholic Education Association, for the certification of catechetical and youth ministry leaders in six arch/dioceses in the state of Minnesota.

After a study commissioned by the USCCB to review the history and role of the separately incorporated commission was completed, it was determined that there was no longer a need for commission to accredit programs to remain separate from the Conference itself. Thus, the current Subcommittee on Certification for Ecclesial Ministry and Service was established under a mandate by the USCCB in 2011, succeeding the separately established USCCB/CCA. Therefore, the separately incorporated commission voted to dissolve in December 2011.

The USCCB established the new subcommittee within the Committee on Catholic Education in 2012, with the understanding that it would no longer accredit clinical pastoral education and ministry formation programs, but focus now on the role of approving the certification standards and procedures for the certification of ecclesial ministers in both institutional (chaplains, campus ministers, etc.) and parish (DRE’s, youth ministers, etc.) settings. The reason for this change was because accreditation is an academic function and best able to be handled by other appropriate Catholic and academic accrediting institutions.