Parish Pastoral Councils – Norms
In the Preface to the Norms, Cardinal Bernardin wrote “these Norms seek to help people understand the consultative nature of the Parish Pastoral Council, and to provide support for people who, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, bring Christ to one another.” (p. 1)
1. Purpose: The Parish Pastoral Council exercises shared responsibility for the pastoral life of the parish under the leadership of the pastor. In this context the purpose of the council is to prayerfully engage the people and the pastor in common reflection about the parish’s mission and ministry, to plan, and to evaluate in the light of the Gospel and Church teaching. It therefore has four basic responsibilities:
a. to research the needs, the ideas, and hopes of the faith community;
b. to encourage and support existing ministries;
c. to evaluate the quality of life of the parish faith community;
d. to plan for the parish’s future by recommending policies, procedures, programs, that will implement its values and fulfill the Church’s mission.” (p. 2)
2. Function: The Parish Pastoral Council is to prepare in a timely fashion (i.e. within the first year of formation) and regularly review a parish mission statement. It does this by first conducting a parish needs assessment in the areas of spiritual development (including liturgy, evangelization, and ecumenism), parish life, human concerns (justice and peace), and Catholic education (both schools and adult religious education). Then it is to relate its findings to the broader community, to the Archdiocese, and to the universal Church. The council is also responsible for pastoral planning, including periodic reevaluation of the parish mission statement, ongoing needs assessment, defining parish goals, setting broad strategies for implementing these goals, and evaluating the parish’s success in carrying out the Church’s mission.” (p. 2)
3. Composition: “The council is composed of the members of the parish pastoral staff and members of the parish and is presided over by the pastor. Although the pastor presides over council, he is not the chairperson.
The question of the participation of full time members of the pastoral staff in the Parish Pastoral Council should be determined in such a way as to insure that the active participation of the parishioners not be diminished while respecting the unique contribution of the staff in the life of the parish. All priests assigned to full time ministry in the parish are members and should participate fully in council deliberations. The Parish Pastoral Council is about the life of a community of faith and as such its members should be members of that community of faith. If there is any need for pastoral discretion that should be done by the pastor as it is in other matters. Prospective council members are to participate in an orientation that outlines the council’s responsibilities with an emphasis on its primary role of carrying out the parish’s spiritual mission. After joining the council, members should be provided with frequent opportunities to grow spiritually and to acquire the skills necessary for carrying out their responsibilities.” (pp. 2-3)
4. Style: “The theological basis for the deliberations of the parish pastoral Council has two dimensions:
a. all its members are to form a community of faith and shared responsibility;
b. the pastor has a ministry of leadership.
In other words, the pastor and the people are to work together in making decisions after prayerful discernment, study, and discussion. Prayer is an essential component in the process, reflecting an awareness of the Spirit’s presence in the community of faith. The council’s role is to recommend policies concerning the parish pastoral matters. This is done most effectively when the council works toward consensus on any given issue. The pastor’s active participation in this process is essential. Some matters, however, might best be handled without recourse to the usual consensus decision making process.” (p. 3)
5. Structure: “The Parish Pastoral Council is to establish at least four commissions or similar structures to cover the following areas:
a. Parish Spiritual Life
b. Catholic Education
c. Human Concerns
d. Parish Life
At least one member of the council is to serve on each commission as a liaison. The commissions should be composed of interested parishioners and their membership approved by the council. The commissions are accountable to the council bad are to act in accord with its policies. Within such policies, the commissions are free to operate in their own legitimate competencies.
Occasionally, an issue may arise that does not seem to fall within the purview of any of the council’s commissions. At such times, the council may establish an ad hoc commission to handle the matter. When its task is completed, however, the ad hoc commission is to be disbanded. At the same time, there should not be many ad hoc commissions because most issues are to be handled by the ordinary council structures.” (pp. 3-4)
6. Relationship to the PFC: “Because of the canonical responsibilities of the pastor and the Finance Council as described in the revised Code of Canon law, the composition of the Parish Finance Council should be in accord with Archdiocesan Policies and Canon 37 which states that the Finance Council is to assist the pastor in the stewardship of parish goods. Since the Finance Council relates to the administrative responsibilities of the pastor, it should not be part of the Parish Pastoral Council structure. An appropriate means of communication should be developed between the Parish Finance Council and the Parish Pastoral Council and this should be done so as to insure that the Parish Finance Council does not enter into areas of policy and mission which are the prerogative of the Parish Pastoral Council.” (pp. 3-4)
7. Parish Education Ministry: “Because the parochial school and religious education program should be integral parts of the ministerial life of the entire parish, they should be accountable to the overall parish goals and objectives in the same way as all other areas of parish life. The Education Commission of the Parish Pastoral Council will assume the responsibility previously carried by the School Board and Religious Education Board in the context of the parish’s mission, goals and objectives. Appropriate committees for these areas can be established and function in a manner similar to existing School Boards and Religious Education Boards, and in fact, if appropriate, be so titled. As regards the day-to-day administration of these programs, it is the responsibility of the Principal and the Director of Religious Education to develop policies in consultation with the pastor and the Parish Pastoral Council and in accord with Archdiocesan Guidelines and Policies.” (p. 4)