In accord with canon 536 of the Code of Canon Law, a parish pastoral council is to be established in each parish or cluster of parishes. It is a collaborative body of the Christian faithful whose purpose is the promotion of the mission of Jesus Christ and His Church in its entirety. It shall at all times work in close collaboration with the pastor of the parish advising him in matters pertaining to pastoral ministry.
The council is a consultative body and through it’s insights, expertise and prudent advise will help the pastor identify, implement and evaluate those pastoral initiatives and policies best suited to spread the Gospel. It shall be the policy formulating body in all matters of pastoral ministry of the parish except to the extent limited by church or civil law or diocesan policy. The pastor is not bound to follow the recommendations of the council.
Committee and staff representation: The pastor is an ex-officio non-voting member of the council. The worship and spiritual life, social concerns and education committee shall have representation on the council by voting a member of their committee(s) to be an ex-officio voting member of the council. The chairperson or other delegate of the parish finance council shall be an ex-officio member of the parish pastoral council and has the responsibility for on-going communication between the councils. Outside advisors may be appointed by the council in collaboration with the pastor because of special concerns. These advisors are not voting members and need not be Catholic.
Council members are to be chosen to reflect the diversity of the parish, to represent different age groups, social classes and geographical areas, to reflect the wisdom of the parish community as a whole and are to offer their expertise as to what is good for the whole parish community. It shall consist of at least 5 members of the Christain faithful of outstanding integrity and honesty and are to be practicing Catholics registered in the parish, actively involved in the life of the parish and 18 years of age or older. At least half of the parish pastoral council members shall be selected from the parish at large. From this group a chairperson and a vice-chairperson is to be chosen. The council, even if a large parish, shall not exceed 12 members. The selection/nomination/election process should be conducted annually during the months of May or June with the selection process specified in the council by-laws of the parish.
Terms of office: Members assume their offices at the first regular meeting of the council following their appointment/selection/nomination/election. Terms of office are for 3 years and are limited to 2 consecutive terms. The council may end a member’s term for repeated absences, lack of concern or interest, inappropriate behavior at meetings and scandal in the parish community.
Cessation: Upon departure of the pastor, the council ceases to exist until the new pastor officially reconstitutes the previous council or establishes a new one. Since the council is a consultative body of the pastor, it is inappropriate for the council to meet without the pastor present unless the pastor has established the agenda and requested it. “Secret:” meetings are without effect.
Executive committee:At the first meeting of the council following the election process, a chairperson, vice-chairperson and secretary are chosen. These officers along with the pastor constitute the executive committee. The pastor may utilize them to set the agenda and to conduct emergency parish business. The pastor is the President of the council, the chairperson conducts the meetings, the vice-chairperson conducts the meetings in the chairperson’s absence, the secretary keeps minutes and maintains a list of members and terms of office.
Meetings should be conducted monthly and in a spirit of prayer. A quorum shall consist of a majority of the members. Confidentiality is to be maintained on matters so designated.
The council will promote evangelization and outreach to others which includes ecumenical activity, promote the teaching of faith and passing on the faith to younger generations, promote a Christian spirit through social justice action, and promote the corporal works of mercy and charity with a vision of Christian stewardship of finances and personnel.
The parish pastoral council is directly accountable to the pastor and is responsible for fostering the pastoral ministry in the parish. In contrast, the parish finance council is also directly accountable to the pastor, but is responsible for making final recommendations to the pastor in the fiscal matters of the parish.
The decision making process is by consensus. If consensus cannot be reached, the actions/recommendations require a 2/3 vote of a majority (quorum) of members present. The pastor is to respond to recommendations from the council. If the pastor rejects the recommendation, it is to be inserted in the minutes of the meeting. Rejection of a recommendation would normally follow 1)faith and morals 2)general church law 3)a conflict with diocesan policy 4)confidential matters the pastor is not able to divulge. Upon explanation of the rejection, the pastor would normally ask for a reconsideration of the councils recommendation.