The work of the pastoral council is to consider, plan and recommend ways for the parish to accomplish the mission of Christ. The pastoral council is a strategic organ in the parish that keeps the parish focused on this divine purpose – loving God, loving God's people, doing God's will and leading others to God through Christ. In fostering parish vitality, the pastor involves his council in careful investigation, prayerful consideration and consensual recommendations.
Often when someone completes a term of service as a member of a parish council they observe, “Now I don't want to leave. I've finally figured out what I am supposed to be doing here!” This comment illustrates one of the greatest obstacles to success and satisfaction with being on a pastoral council - a lack of clear purpose. Successful pastoral councils are clear about their purpose, scope and role within the parish.
The parish pastoral council is a consultative body that actively participates to plan for parish vitality under the leadership of a pastor. While it is not a legislative body, the concept of consultation has significant meaning in church law. The pastoral council is charged with prayerfully discerning parish needs, setting pastoral priorities, and empowering people to participate in the mission of Christ. Identifying needs, establishing priorities and mobilizing a community to act on what it values most is at the heart of parish success.
For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? ( Luke 14:28)
We invest time to plan for the things that matter most in our lives. God invites us to care enough about the success of the Church to plan for it. In fostering parish vitality, the pastor involves his council in careful investigation, prayerful consideration and consensual recommendations. This three-fold agenda for parish pastoral councils is derived from the role of the diocesan pastoral council (Decree on Bishops, #27).
Recommendation: Provide orientation and regular formation to all council members – new and old. As part of this orientation, the pastor should express his philosophy on consultation and describe his approach to how the pastoral council will operate in the parish. It may also be helpful to provide written descriptions, and a calendar of council meetings.