Introduction to Parish Pastoral Councils
with Mark F. Fischer

4. The Role of the Council

What is the role of the councillors in the parish pastoral council? They accomplish the threefold purpose of the council, i.e., studying, reflecting, and recommending their conclusions.

Some have proposed that the pastoral council accomplishes the task of the lay apostolate.  But it is more accurate to say that it participates in the pastor's apostolate.  They assist him in the work of pastoral planning. 

Listen to the audio lecture, take the quiz, and do the reading assignment to discover what the pastor (and the Church in general) expects from council members.

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A. Quiz on the Councillors' Task

Answer the questions true or false.

  1. To investigate, ponder, and recommend findings about a pastoral matter is the councillors' task.

  2. Councillors work independently of the pastor on the lay apostolate.

  3. To accomplish the council task, councillors should be able to study, reflect, and reach conclusions by discussion.

  4. The council is "representative" in that it necessarily mirrors the parish's demographic makeup.

  5. Councillors succeed when their recommendations are so wise that the pastor accepts them.

B. Meaning of Participation

Official Vatican documents of 1987, 1999, and 2001 state that the pastoral council is an instrument for the "participation" of the laity.  That is true but insufficient, for there are many ways apart from councils in which lay persons can participate.  But only in pastoral councils do they officially participate in the pastor's apostolate as planners.

C. Reading from Pastoral Councils in Today's Catholic Parish:

Chapter 13 describes some of the popular understandings of the task of the "pastoral" council.  In the popular mind, such councils treat a spiritual subject matter, utilize the methods of discernment, and proceed in a prayerful manner.  The chapter, however, clarifies the real meaning of "pastoral."  Pastoral councils can treat any subject matter, using a variety of methods, including prayer. 

D. Reflection

The Church's official documents state that the "pastoral" council investigates, ponders, and reaches conclusions.  The implication is that the Church expects councillors to investigate thoroughly, to reflect deeply, and to recommend wisely.  Describe how your council accomplishes this threefold task - and how it could do it better.

© 2008.  For more information about parish pastoral councils, email Mark Fischer.