Introduction to Parish Pastoral Councils
with Mark F. Fischer

6. The Nature of Consultation

How do pastors consult?  The pastor may consult about broad or narrow topics.  Whatever he consults about, however, he should tell the council his expectations:

  • What process the council will take, including the length of the process and its intermediate steps.

  • The final product of the consultation, whether a written recommendation or a decision made orally.

  • How council decisions will be made - for example, whether the council will use parliamentary procedure or search for consensus.

  • The pastor's own role in shaping the consultation.

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A. Quiz on Consultation

Answer the questions true or false.

  1. The council tells the pastor what he should consult about.

  2. Councils may recommend things in general, but not in specifics.

  3. The pastor lays out the scope and process of the consultation.

  4. The pastor defines the consultation's final product.

  5. Pastors are obliged to take the advice of councillors.

  6. Councils may use parliamentary procedure or may seek consensus.

  7. When pastors disagree with their councils, they should not tell them why.

B. Topics of Consultation

The 2002 Directory stated that the bishop (as pastor of the diocese) should propose the questions to be treated by the pastoral council.  The same can be said about the pastors of parishes (with parish pastoral councils). Since the pastor is doing the consulting, he should have the final say about the consultation.  This characterizes the "pastoral" council.

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

Chapter 19: The Meaning of Consultation 

The pastor is a situational leader.  His style of leadership should depend on the readiness of his councillors.  The goal is to get at the truth of the matter through dialogue.  Pastors should be asking questions and preparing councillors to help answer them.  Councils investigate, ponder, and recommend conclusions on matters about which pastors want to know more.  If this is not what your council does, it may be dysfunctional.

D. Reflection

With a fellow councillor, recall a pastoral council meeting that you both attended.  Did the printed agenda help you prepare for the meeting?  Did the minutes accurately reflect what happened?  Did the next meeting build upon the work of the previous meeting?  Answer these three questions with your colleague and state how things could have been improved (500 words).

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