The Pastoral Council of St. Noel Parish is the primary consultative group of the community. its role is to assess and envision the spiritual direction of the parish and its effectiveness in proclaiming the gospel of Christ. The pastor consults the Pastoral Council concerning any major decision which will affect the direction of the parish.
The Council is composed of 13-15 parishioners of St. Noel who are selected through a five week process of discernment. The Council members serve for a term of three years. The pastor also serves on the Council.
The decisions of the Pastoral Council are reached by a process of discernment which attempts to reach a consensus of all members. This process requires patience on the part of the Council as well as the conviction that God speaks through both the majority and minority perspectives.
It is the responsibility of the Parish Staff to direct the day-to-day ministries of the Parish. It is the responsibility of the Finance Council to advise the Pastor on the proper use of the parish’s financial resources and buildings. The Parish Pastoral Council must work in conjunction with the Staff and Finance Council to serve the parish effectively.
Purpose of the Pastoral Council
The purpose of the Pastoral Council is to promote the spiritual growth of the parish community and to plan ways for the parish to carry out the mission of the church.
It is not the purpose of the Pastoral Council to assume the administrative responsibilities of the parish which are to be carried out by the pastor in conjunction with the parish staff and Finance Council. Rather it is the task of the Pastoral Council to guide the direction and priorities of pastoral life out of which the administrative responsibilities flow.
The Pastoral Council promotes the spiritual growth of the parish and plans ways for the parish to carry out the church’s mission through the following four interdependent functions.
The primary concern of the Pastoral Council is the spiritual growth of the parish community. The Council is committed to the ongoing spiritual renewal of parish life. Council members need to commit themselves to prayer and the study of church teachings and seek to serve as a model to the parish of prayer, cooperation, celebration and service.
The Council is the pastoral planning body of the parish. It ensures ongoing collaboration among the people of the parish to assure that the ministries and life of the community promote the full mission of the church. While other groups focus on a specific ministry, the Pastoral Council is responsible for determining how the parish can be most effective in fulfilling its total mission. The Council discern what needs to be supported, changed, or developed to make the parish more faithful to the call of God.
The pastoral Council also serves as a planning review body. It provides consultation to the pastor regarding proposed goals, pastoral policies, or programs developed by the staff or other groups — especially those that may involve significant change in or impact upon the life of the parish community.
Pastoral Policy Development
The Pastoral Council develops, reviews, and recommends pastoral policies. Although the Pastoral Council is a consultative body whose decisions are recommendations to the pastor, the pastor is responsible to ensure that major pastoral proposals developed by the staff or others be brought to the Pastoral Council for its review and recommendation.
The Council is responsible to communicate regularly with the members of the parish community. This will be accomplished in part by the timely publishing of the minutes of the council, and the ability of any parish member to bring appropriate concerns to the Council. The Pastoral Council will also communicate with the diocesan community and support communications with other faith communities and the local civic community.
The Discernment Process
St. Noel Pastoral Council is committed to the use of a discernment process both in the selection of its members and in its responsibility to make recommendations.
By discernment is meant the consciously Christian intention to reach decisions which are in harmony (or more in harmony) with God’s will. As St. Paul writes “Do not be conformed to the world but be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (ROM. 12.2)
Although voting can be a part of the process, the commitment to discernment discourages a decision-making process based simply on majority rule. Rather the decision-making process provides adequate time for education, persuasion, and attention to the minority voices in the discussion. For lit is believed that it is precisely in this process that God’s will can emerge.
The aim of discernment is always to reach a consensus among the group members. To facilitate this consensus, adequate time should be given for:
- each individual to reach his or her own decision
- the sharing of these individual decisions with the entire group
- reevaluation of individual decisions in light of the group sharing and especially the reasoning of the minority positions.
- attempting to build a common consensus that the entire group can own.
Because the Pastoral Council is a group built upon spiritual foundations, it is appropriate for the Council to employ this spiritual process of discernment in which members fully expect God’s will to be recognized. In order for discernment to function effectively it will be necessary for the members of the Council to:
- be free from an excessive attachment to one’s own opinions and selfish goals, and from any prejudice or bias
- be committed to develop a spiritual vision which will sense the will of God
- be desirous to decide an issue on the basis of what will promote the spiritual good of the parish rather than what is most efficient, profitable, or productive for public acclaim or publicity.
Pastoral Council Membership
Selection of Members
Recommendations for potential Pastoral Council members will be accepted from all parishioners. Parishioners can recommend more than one person and they can recommend themselves.
Parishioners who would be effective members of Council would possess the following traits:
– willingness to spend time praying and reflecting with others
– time, enthusiasm, and interest for the responsibilities of the Pastoral Council
– concern for the interests and pastoral needs of the parish as a whole, rather than just representing the interests of a particular group in the parish
– capability for working harmoniously with others
– capability for delegating to others
– patience to tolerate the slow process involved in the visioning and discernment responsibilities of the Council
– willingness to make a commitment to the formation process and a four year term on the Council
Parishioners who have been recommended, wither by others or by themselves, and have accepted their recommendation, will participate in a formation process. This process will consist of four or five sessions with the aim of education, creating cohesiveness and sharing faith. All parishioners are welcome to participate in these sessions. At the conclusion of these sessions, those who are open to serve on the Pastoral Council will be invited to enter a process, which will determine the persons who will serve on the Council.
Members of the Pastoral Council will serve a four year term, with no more than two members carrying over for a second term. No one can serve more than two consecutive terms.
The total number of Pastoral Council members will be between 13 and 15 and will include the following:
9-12 The number of members discerned will vary depending on the number of members who carry over from the previous council.
1 or 2 Optional members appointed by the Pastor if needed.
12 to 15 Total
The selection of Pastoral Council members will take place every four years.
The process for filling vacancies will be determined by the Pastoral Council.
Executive Committee and Officers’ Responsibilities
Each new Pastoral Council will determine an Executive Committee. The Executive committee will include the Pastor, 3 to 4 Council Members.
The Executive Committee will meet prior to each Pastoral. Council meeting to prepare the Council agenda, plan the meeting and set in place the processes necessary to accomplish the agenda. The agenda and any reading assignments to be done in preparation for the next meeting will be emailed to the Pastoral Council members a week in advance.
The Executive Committee will determine who will chair each meeting. It will also solicit council members to (1) prepare prayer, (2) provide food, and (3) take notes for each meeting.
Notes will be sent to the parish office after each meeting and will be posted on the St. Noel website.
The Pastoral Council will normally meet in months of September, November, January, March or April, May or June. Additional meetings may be called as needed.
Any member of the parish is able to submit appropriate issues for consideration for the Council agenda. Items to be considered should be presented in writing, with a signature, to a member of the Executive Committee before the board meeting of the particular month in which the Council meeting is taking place. Non-members of Council may speak to their concern if the issue is on the agenda and they have asked to address the Council.
Regularly scheduled meetings will be open to parishioners as observers but the Pastoral Council may call a closed meeting or close a portion of any given meeting when confidentiality is required.
The quorum for any Pastoral Council meeting will be 2/3 of total membership.
The Pastoral Council will carry out its discussions and made recommendations based on a process of discernment.
Relationship with the Pastor and Staff
The Pastoral Council is a consultative body which makes recommendations to the Pastor. The Pastor is to serve on the Pastoral council and is to consult the Pastoral council on matters of major pastoral concern. The staff, in consultation and collaboration wit the Pastor, implements the parish’s pastoral plan, taking responsibilities in their particular areas of concern.
Relationship with Finance Council
The Finance Council and the Pastoral Council cooperate in their mutual concern for the life and mission of the parish. This Finance Council looks to the Pastoral council for a mission statement of the parish, a pastoral plan, and parish priorities. The Pastoral council looks to the Finance Council for sound financial guidance regarding the resources needed to develop and implement parish plans, programs and policies.