What is the Parish Council?
Parish Council is a group of people who together are representing the
entire parish and who plan and guide its growth. They are chosen by
the parish to join with the pastor in a special service of long-range
planning, the setting of parish priorities, and the implementation of
programs through the Six Commissions. The Role of the Parish Council
cannot be understood apart from the work to which the entire parish is
called; and so this section looks first at the role of the whole
parish before it examines more closely the role of the Parish Council.
Called by God
Sometimes Catholics seem to feel that their relationship with the
Church is a mechanical, impersonal thing. They feel they belong to the
Church in the same way that they belong to the Jaycees, the School
Booster Club, or the Library Discussion Group. Their belonging can
seem like a choice all their own, like a decision to join any
organization or group. But that is not really the case. At the Last
Supper, Jesus told his apostles, "You did not choose me; no, I chose
you." (John 15:16). The reality of the matter is that God has called
each one of us by name to be in his Church. This is the call we
received at our baptism. Though the role to which each is called
differs, the call to every one of us is no less personal, no less
real, than the one Jesus gave to the apostles when he went right up to
them and said, "Come, follow me." (Matthew 4:19). We need to keep in
mind that we have been individually called and chosen by God.
Belonging to the Church does not just mean being registered in a
parish, but being personally called by the Father.
Called to Active Service
is the reason for our call to be Catholics? After all, God's call to
share in his own life reaches out to all persons over the whole world.
Through various ways men and women of many different religions are
able to learn about God and to grow in the holiness that comes from
having a relationship with him. As Christians, however, we have been
called through our baptism not only to share in the life of God but
also to carry on the work of Jesus. We are called not only to holiness
but also to a special activity or service. That activity is more than
doing good and avoiding evil. Each of us is called to make God's
presence felt in the world in which he lives. The spiritual service of
Christians must point out something about God's love and concern for
justice. In the Scriptures the idea is illustrated by Jesus when
someone asks him to reveal the Father and he said in response, "When
you see me, you see the Father.: (John 14:9). To serve is not just to
follow the laws of morality or to carry out a worthwhile activity, but
to have the Spirit that was Christ's in our words and actions. Thus,
when with the eyes of faith others see this kind of activity, they
will see a person and have a sense of God's presence in that person.
The Parish: Shared Responsibility for Service
one of us Catholics, then, is called to a life of both personal
holiness and explicit service. We cannot just be holy. We must do
Christ's work. The service to which we are called may vary from time
to time, within our own lives and from one person to the next.
Sometimes we may express it through involvement in organized programs
and at other times outside any organized program. Together, however,
all members of the parish share the responsibility to carry on the
work of Jesus in all its dimensions - proclaiming the gospel, worship,
social justice, and building Christian community. The special gifts
that God gives us to carry out our individual services are always for
the common good of the whole parish ministry. The term "shared
responsibility" refers to our common responsibility as a parish to
continue the mission or work of Jesus in its fullness. Each Catholic,
through his baptism and confirmation, has personally been called by
God to share in that responsibility.
great variety of ways in which Catholics can respond to their
baptismal call creates a challenge for the direction of the parish
programs. There is a vast number of possible parish programs; and
there is a limited amount of resources available, especially in terms
of people's time and energy. Which areas of involvement are more
important? Which should be addressed at this time and which require
preparation now, so that they may come to fruition in several years?
How can the programs be carried out so that they involve as many
people as possible? How can such a variety of programs be
well-directed? The Parish Council is established to respond to these
questions. This structure allows coordinated planning and a sense of
vision to be brought to the parish programs. It also ensures the basic
unity of parish activities, so that the work of the parish is not
carried out by isolated individuals but is a shared responsibility of
persons working together as part of an organized whole.
Membership of the Council
Parish Council should be representative of the entire parish: pastoral
staff, religious, and laity. Its membership will vary according to the
size and needs of the parish and should reflect the overall make-up of
the community it serves. The total membership of the Council should be
not less than eight nor more than twenty.
General membership on the Council should include:
pastor and all priests, permanent deacons, and
other persons in full-time positions of leadership, such as the
school principal, director of religious education, youth minister,
or director of worship.
people elected by the parish. The majority of the Council should
always be composed of lay parishioners.
special appointees. Provisions should be made for a small number of
persons appointed by the Pastor (no more than three) in order to
provide for an unrepresented segment of the parish if there is such
a need after an election.
following are the six major responsibilities of the Parish Council:
Priorities & Planning
- To determine the priorities and plan with vision for the future
- To ensure that the programs and activities of the parish are carried
out by the Commissions
- To involve everyone in the work of the parish
- To enable as many people as possible to contribute to the process of
decision-making in the parish
Cooperation with Diocese
- To cooperate with diocesan departments and through the Deanery
Council with other parishes and to carry out its work according to the
priorities of the Diocese and under its guidance.
Contribution to Diocese
- To contribute to the
formulation of diocesan goals and programs
responsibilities take form particularly in two major tasks. The first
and primary task of the Council is to plan. This is a task that the
Council works upon steadily throughout the year, because the Council
is the think-tank of the parish. It is the place where people dream
about the future of the parish, where new possibilities are sought and
new visions are proclaimed. The cycle of expressing a vision and
gathering ideas from the Commissions, then having it developed by a
Commission, responding to the Commission's presentation, and refining
it sufficiently before adoption - this is a cycle that the Council
should be involved in continuously for many different areas. As a
think-tank, the Council tries to bring the elements of vision,
quality, and planning to the change that the parish will inevitably
addition to being a think-tank, the Council is delegated by the Pastor
to share some of his administrative responsibilities that involve the
implementation of programs. The Council members clarify and determine
parish priorities. In May of each year they study the programs
proposed by the parish Commissions for the Pastoral Plan.