By Fr David Khan
The Church is the living body of Christ. In diverse ways, we all share the responsibility for the mission given to her by Our Lord. Pastoral Councils—more familiarly called Parish Councils—should be seen as instruments in the parish which help parish priests in the day to day operations of pastoral initiatives (511, Canon Law).
Collaboration between the parish priest and the Pastoral Council is integral to each stage of the parish decision-making process. Through reflection, planning, animation and action, the Pastoral Council becomes the place where those Ministries or services needed for the growth of a living parish community are discussed.
In compliance with its name, the council reflects the pastoral concerns of the parish. Consequently, its mandate embraces three general objectives: to assess the work of the parish ministries in response to the pastoral plan; to help other ministries to address obstacles to implementation; and to evaluate the outcomes of predetermined goals. It bears no direct involvement in maintenance, financial or personal issues.
[Canon 536] 1. If the diocesan bishop judges it opportune after he has heard the presbyteral council, a pastoral council is to be established in each parish, over which the pastor presides and in which the Christian faithful, together with those who share in pastoral care by virtue of their office in the parish, assist in fostering pastoral activity.
More specifically the council’s purpose is to investigate pastoral concerns, to ponder and reflect prayerfully on pastoral matters, to make recommendations to the pastor, to enhance the decision-making process through a) pastoral planning, b) developing pastoral programmes, c) improving pastoral service d) accessing pastoral effectiveness, and e) evaluating the pastoral effectiveness of various programmes and services. It must be noted that the parish council is neither a coordinating council, a decision maker nor a financial council.
Membership to the Parish Council lasts a minimum of three years and is limited to 12 members: 8 parishioners and 4 appointed by the pastor. The prerequisite of candidates chosen is that they are in full communion with the Church experience in areas related to ministries of the parish (e.g. a banker, human resource person, etc.)
These persons will help in the strategic thinking and/or vision of the parish as a whole. Meetings should be held at least once a month but not less than every three months.
It is clear that while pastoral council members of a parish can play an important role in various parish matters, the relationship between members and the parish priest is intended to be an enabling one which allows the pastor to make the right choices about matters affecting the parish. In this way, both the pastor and the parishioners work together for the spiritual well-being of the parish.
The people of God have different roles and responsibilities, yet are all under one head—Jesus Christ—offering of their time, talent and treasure. As such, the parish as a community is called to work collaboratively with various ministries within and beyond the parish.
This serves to strengthen the life of the parish and the Archdiocese and creates a Christ-centred and mission-oriented Church which is vibrant, revitalised, faithful, welcoming, and forward thinking.