Role and Function of the Parish Pastoral Councils
Canon Law provides for the formation of Parish Pastoral Councils in Canon 536 #1.
“In every parish of the diocese, a Pastoral Council shall be established, if the diocesan Bishop, after consulting with the Council of Presbyters, so decides. The pastor presides over the Pastoral Council. The Pastoral Council is composed of members of the congregation . The Pastoral Council assists in promoting pastoral action in the parish.”
The Parish Pastoral Council is a consultative body, pastoral in nature, because it strives to discern the movement of the Holy Spirit among God’s people in the parish. A Parish Pastoral Council gives its help to the pastor in fostering pastoral activity; it investigates, under the authority of the pastor, all those things which pertain to pastoral works to ponder them, and to propose practical conclusions about them. It is essential that Council meetings occur in the context of prayer and openness to the Holy Spirit, so that at all times the common good will prevail.
Specifically, the Parish Pastoral Council’s purpose is to enhance the process of:
- pastoral planning
- developing pastoral programs
- improving pastoral services
- evaluating the pastoral effectiveness of various programs and services
Although the Council is not a body which makes binding decisions, the recommendations of the Pastoral Council are to be taken seriously when grounded in prayer, discernment and communal wisdom.
The pastor presides over the Parish Pastoral Council. The pastor is responsible for the final approval of Council recommendations concerning pastoral planning, programs, and services for the parish, as well as for their implementation. While the pastor is not obliged to follow the recommendations of the Parish Pastoral Council, it is understood that he ought to do so unless there is a compelling reason to do otherwise. If there is such a reason, the pastor should share this with the Council.
Parish Pastoral Council Membership
Parish Pastoral Council members are appointed by the pastor.
The number of council members are five.
Serving on the council is a ministry to the whole parish. When considering membership on the council, the following criteria should be kept in mind. Potential candidates should be:
- of proven faith,
- with sound morals,
- demonstrating the gifts of wisdom and prudence,
- willing to commit their time, talent and wisdom in a consultative and collaborative manner.
Council members should have the ability to study and reflect prayerfully, and to recognize and respect the viewpoints of others.
Official Church documents state that the Pastoral Councils are to represent the people of God, but not in the legal sense. Rather, council members are representative in that they are a witness or a sign of the whole community. They make its wisdom present.
The Pastoral Council is a representative body rather than a body of representatives.
Members are required to attend monthly meetings of the council. Considering the responsibility entrusted to them, Parish Pastoral Council members are expected to participate in an ongoing formation process.
The pastor is the primary selector of the Council’s agenda. However, any member of the Council may raise items for the agenda. Ordinarily, the Council meets monthly for one to two hours.
Minutes are recorded by the Parish Pastoral Council Secretary and archived as part of the parish permanent record.
Terms of Service
Council members serve a two-year term, renewable once; or one three-year term.
The Council does not deal with acts of administration which are distinct from pastoral policies and planning. Acts of administration concern the daily operations of the parish, which includes the implementation of the pastoral plan and policies, parish programming, budgeting and personnel matters.
The pastor has the responsibility for these matters and for the staff. Some elements of administration belong to other groups, such as the Parish Finance Council.
Following are some of the pastoral activities which could constitute agenda items for the Parish Pastoral Council:
- instruction in the full range of the faith and catechetical formation
- programs promoting gospel values, including issues of social justice
- responsibilities to people with special needs
- Catholic education of children and young adults
- outreach to alienated Catholics
- programs of sacramental life and preparation
- promotion of Eucharistic devotion
- enhancement of programs for the sacraments of penance and Eucharist
- inculcation of prayer life, especially within families
- effective participation in the liturgy
- methods of acquaintance with parishioners
- the welcoming of newcomers
- home visiting
- efforts at building community
- motivation of the spiritual and corporal works of mercy
- efforts of special care for the sick and dying
- tangible concern for the poor, the afflicted, the lonely, the exiled
- fostering of solid Christian family life
- promotion of the lay apostolate
- strengthening of extra-parochial relations with the bishop, diocesan-pastoral efforts and a worldwide Catholic identity
- special role with parish stewardship activities
- outreach to and inclusion of youth and young adults in the life of the parish
The Essential Elements of Parish Life:
The essential elements of parish life relate to the basic mission of the parish and will become the foundation of the parish’s dialogue and reflection when creating a pastoral plan for the future.
Parish Pastoral Council members are encouraged to learn about these elements, reflect on them in their own experience as a parishioner, and develop strategies and methods to engage the larger community in a reflection around these elements and taking responsibility for their implementation.
Your current Parish Pastoral Council members are: