The Pastoral Council

“The pastoral council has its roots in Christian antiquity and the concepts of collaboration, charism, and the parish as the local Church. Nevertheless, it is a new creation of Vatican II, and its function is to engage in pastoral planning. Councils help pastors plan the parish’s pastoral program. Pastoral planning is the shorthand term for the threefold purpose of examination, reflection, and recommendation.”

“The pastoral council is a representative body, not a body of representatives. It reflects the wisdom of the People of God, not constituencies within the parish. Council members should not be chosen because they belong to this ministry or parish organization should be chosen because they have the gifts necessary for the pastoral council.”

The gifts that a pastor is looking for in choosing members of his pastoral council are represented in the following five categories:

1. Prayerful 2. Pastoral 3. Prophetic 4. Discerning 5. Consensus Building

The pastoral council members should be active and participating members with a good knowledge of the Church and the parish to which they belong and an ability to discern, study and integrate the viewpoints of others. They act as advisory to the pastor in all spiritual and physical matters that concern the parish and its needs.

It is not a “parish council” but a pastoral council. It is not a Board of Directors but Spiritual Directors. It is not composed of representatives of organizations but a “visioning body.” It does not coordinate ministries but helps the pastor articulate the mission. It is not “crisis management” but pastoral planning and goal setting. It’s not about “doing activities” but empowering parishioners. It is not about business and politics but prayer and discernment. It is not a competition but a collaboration. It does not vote on issues but builds consensus. There is no “committee reporting” but active listening. Members are not “elected” but appointed or chosen by gifts and charisms. It does not follow constitutions and by-laws but follows and develops norms.

Membership usually, but not always, follows a rotation of members about every two years or so at the pastor’s discretion.