The parish pastoral council is a leadership group through which priests and people work together as co-responsible partners in furthering the mission of Christ in their parish. As a group, they think and plan for the parish on an ongoing basis, to respond to present and future needs.
The parish pastoral council has an:
- Advisory role;
- Coordinating role;
- Planning role.
Who are the members of the Parish Pastoral Council?
Vatican II documents speak of parish pastoral councils as “representative” or “reflective of” the People of God. The Church does not understand representation as majority rule nor is it a matter of simply selecting a council that mirrors a demographic profile. Representation aims to make present the wisdom that resides in the people of God.
Canon Law speaks in general terms about the criteria for membership of parish pastoral councils. It states that members will be chosen to reflect the wisdom of the entire people of God and they should be in full communion with the Catholic Church, outstanding in firm faith, prudent and have high moral standards. Ideal members are those who have the ability to study, investigate and thoroughly examine pastoral matters. In “A Handbook for Parish Pastoral Councils,” Jane Ferguson states that pastoral council members should be people of prayer, have missionary zeal, be willing to learn, are collaborative and have the ability to delegate.
Members of the parish pastoral council have a responsibility to:
- Listen to the needs of parishioners;
- Submit agenda items on an agreed date before meeting;
- Read materials circulated;
- Prepare agenda items, have points ready especially if responsible for a particular item;
- Actively listen to the views of others in a non-judgemental manner;
- Participate in discussion but do not force personal opinions;
- Carry out actions agreed at meeting;
- Notify secretary in advance if unable to attend a meeting.
Inspired by the Holy Spirit
Prayer is central to the work and life of the parish pastoral council as its source of inspiration and vision. This is not book-end prayer that opens and closes meetings but prayer that aims to change hearts and minds, prayer that sincerely searches out the mind of God in relation to the particular parish, a particular meeting, a particular agenda. Prayer is a source of strength and guidance and a group that spends quality time in prayer will be formed into a community of faith at the heart of the parish.
The parish pastoral council is a consultative body. It is not an executive body that implements its recommendations through a system of standing committees. It is not a legislature that balances the power of a chief executive but is engaged with the priest in a common search for wisdom.
Consultation in the church is rooted in the understanding of the Church as a community of believers who share in the priestly, prophetic and governing mission of Jesus.
The priest consults his people because he knows that wisdom resides with them. That wisdom emerges in dialogue. It emerges in the knowledge and common sense of fair-minded people. The task of parish pastoral council members is to “represent” by “making present” the wisdom of the parish.