Pastoral Council Toolbox
Parish Pastoral Council Frequently Asked Questions
The pastoral council advises the pastor on the spiritual works of the parish community. They should create a vision for the parish, communicate this vision to all parishioners, and monitor the implementation of this vision. They are a consultative body advising the pastor as he makes decisions.
Pastoral council members should be baptized Catholics in full communion with the Church. They should be actively participating in the sacraments, and a member of the parish which the council serves. The pastor presides at the council meetings. All deacons and religious assisting in the parish serve on the pastoral council.
Pastoral council members may be elected or appointed by the pastor. A council can be comprised of both elected and appointed members. Elections can be parish-wide. Nominations for elected members can be made by any parishioner, or the pastor or a group may be may make nominations, with either parishioners voting on the slate or the pastor choosing from the slate. Whatever method is chose, it is important the pastor has a representative group to advise him on spiritual matters of the parish.
Terms for pastoral council members are recommended. A three-year term is typical; however, there are no set terms or term limits. It is recommended the terms alternate, such that there would not be a complete turnover of members in any one given year.
The agenda is the responsibility of the pastor. A pastoral council chair or president may create the agenda to be approved by the pastor/administrator. The meeting can be conducted by the pastor or a designated member, such as the president or chair of the council. The pastor must be present at each pastoral council meeting.
A representative from the finance council can present the temporal activity to the pastoral council at any or all meetings, or the pastor, who presides over both councils, can represent the temporal needs to the pastoral council and vice versa. Finance council works with the school advisory council and the pastor on all financial matters of the school. A representative from the stewardship council should serve as a liaison to both the finance and pastoral councils to communicate their shared mission. Finance council and pastoral council members should not serve on the stewardship council. The school advisory council advises the principal and the pastor; therefore, the principal should report to the pastoral council. A school advisory council member, preferably the school administrator, should serve on the stewardship council.
The desired method for running a pastoral council meeting is through consensus meetings. Robert’s Rules of Order can be utilized in a pastoral council meeting, but it does not accommodate collaboration and discernment. It is more indicative of a majority rules, voting, and democratic process.
Contact the Director of Parish Services to request training and resources.
One of the three directives of the pastoral council is to communicate their vision to all parishioners. Publishing a version of the minutes can be one way to accomplish this, but it is not the only way.
Although it is not required to have the minutes published, they should be made available to anyone requesting them.
It is permissible for a pastoral council to hold an occasional open meeting. They may be on a regular schedule (eg. annually) or they may never be on a schedule, but happen as needed. Anyone who wishes to attend a meeting should have the permission of the pastor and the pastoral council should be informed of their attendance in advance. The discernment process works best when trained pastoral council members are utilizing it.
The goal of a pastoral council meeting is consensus, not unanimous agreement. The pastor makes decisions based on the consensus of the council because he has legal authority of the spiritual and temporal affairs of the parish. The pastor is subject to the authority of the bishop and the laws of the Church. If the pastor’s decision is not in line with the consensus, he should provide a rationale or explanation to the council. If the council understand the pastor’s decision is contrary to the authority of the bishop or the laws of the Church, it should be brought to the pastor’s attention. If further attention is needed, the council may contact the dean of their deanery.