From our Pastoral Council President, John Dullock…
What is it and who is on it?
It’s come to my attention that some may not be aware of what our St. John the Evangelist Parish Pastoral Council does. In a few cases, some didn’t even know we had a Pastoral Council or what a Pastoral Council is supposed to do. Honestly, three years ago when I took this position in our parish, I wasn’t sure what it did either. Here’s some explanation:
Pastoral Councils exist in three-fourths of the 18,000 Catholic parishes in the USA. In simple terms, our pastoral council is a consultative council of St. John’s and St. Joe’s lay people helping guide the parish. Pastors establish councils because they seek practical advice on pastoral matters. Now that we have only one parish priest, Fr. Chas relies more and more on the laity of the parish. Pastors believe that God’s Spirit speaks through their people. They consult their councils because they want to know what is wise and prudent. Experts can say what is best in most parishes and as a matter of general principle. But they cannot judge what is best for a particular parish, here and now, because they are not a part of it. Councils offer what no expert can offer: a judgment about what is right for a particular parish. In other words, our council is looking out for what is best for OUR Parish. Parish Pastoral Councils are successes in the USA because priests benefit when their people study the local situation, reflect on it, and recommend concrete solutions to real problems.
Catholic pastors consult pastoral councils in order to be better leaders. Bishops and priests ask their councilors (that’s a fancy name for one of your pastoral council members) to investigate some aspect of the church, reflect on it, and recommend their conclusions. In brief, the work of the pastoral council is pastoral planning. I’m going to brief what we do in the rest of this article; however, if you want to read our formal Foundation document (St. John’s specific Pastoral Council Mission Statement), you can access this on our website at: https://saintjohnjackson.org/about-us/parish-committees/
Why are we here?
Recognizing that sound pastoral decisions are informed by the wisdom of the People of God, Fr. Chas consults the St. John the Evangelist Parish pastoral council. By establishing a pastoral council, he acknowledges the wisdom of his parishioners and expresses his desire to share with them his responsibility for the governance of the parish. Our parishioners have a right and duty to express their opinion on what pertains to the good of their church. In other words, the Pastoral Council represents YOU in a formal, procedural manner. You can contact any one of us to express your viewpoint on a church matter and we WILL be discussing that matter at the next meeting. We’re the ‘voice of the people’.
What is the purpose?
The purpose of the parish pastoral council is to investigate pastoral matters, to consider them thoroughly, and to propose practical conclusions about them. These may include everything that pertains to the pastor’s ministries of proclaiming God’s word, celebrating the sacraments, caring for the faithful, promoting the mission of the Church to the world, and being a good steward of parish resources. The purpose and scope include all the practical matters of parish life. Make no mistake here, Fr. Chas is the leader of the council and of the Parish. We can only recommend. Final decisions come from the Pastor. After the pastor has accepted the recommendations of the council, he directs their implementation. Council members may assist him, but strictly speaking, implementation is the responsibility of the pastor, not the council.
When do we meet?
The pastoral council meets once every other month. Meetings are two hours in length. Between the meetings, council members are expected to follow up the previous meeting and prepare for the next. This usually entails work on ad hoc committees.
How do I get on the Pastoral Council?
For our Parish, twelve pastoral council members serve a three year term. Our process includes a rotating council, where four members are rotated out every three years based on our fiscal year (June/July). This rotation allows the continuous involvement of others in this important work.
In summary, the pastoral council is a body of chosen people, studious and thoughtful, reflective of the local community, consulted by the pastor as he sees fit, and dependent upon him for the council’s identity. Its success hinges upon the engagement of the parishioners and desire of a pastor to examine an issue thoroughly.
Please consult any of your pastoral council members if you have an agenda item for the next meeting. Use your council as a means of your church working together in one united manner. On page 4 is the list of council members with the email and phone number where you can reach each.
Pastoral Council President