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Online Book Reviews

  • Great Catholic Parishes.   William E. Simon, Jr., Great Catholic Parishes: A Living Mosaic: How Four Essential Practices Make Them Thrive (Notre Dame, IN: Ave Maria Press, 2016), ISBN-13: 978-1-59471-417-7. 178 pages + 10 pages of appendices, 10 pages of notes, and 4 pages of bibliography, for a total of 202 pages. $17.95.
  • Strategic Planning.  Dan R. Ebener and Frederick L. Smith, Strategic Planning: An Interactive Process for Leaders (New York and Mahwah: Paulist Press, 2015), 129 pages.  ISBN 978-0-8091-4920-9.  $14.95.  William L. Pickett, Concise Guide to Pastoral Planning (Notre Dame: Ave Maria, 2007), 256 pages.  ISBN 1594711356. $16.95.


Pastors and councillors who want to improve their work can benefit from a free online Introduction to Parish Pastoral Councils.  It offers an overview of the Church’s teaching about councils, with lectures, quizzes, readings, and reflections. Councillors who take the course individually at home can then discuss what they learned when they reassemble for the next meeting of the council.  Click here for PowerPoints about the purpose of councils and the relation between pastors and councillors. Covering the same material as the online course, it is suitable for orienting new members or refreshing the knowledge of veterans.

2 Responses to Discussion

  1. Pastoral Council member in Maine says:

    I am a new member of a Maine parish’s Pastoral Council. After attending several meetings, I was puzzled about the purpose of the council and had a few conversations with our pastor about my questions. He and I agreed that the council’s purpose and functioning is not clear either to the council or the parish as a whole. He has asked me to help in finding resources, such as readings, and a person who can help us focus the council’s purpose and goals, and facilitate also a meeting of the parish as a whole. I purchased and read your book, which I found very helpful and I’ve passed the book on to him to read as well.

    I’m writing to you to ask if you can recommend someone in the northeast who assists pastors in the formation of a Pastoral Council that functions well with a clear purpose, and who could also help us facilitate a parish-wide meeting to help everyone understand the Council’s role along side other committees in the parish, and engage the parishioners in identifying the areas that will focus our work to build God’s kingdom here in our parish.

  2. Mark F. Fischer says:

    The idea of a parish-wide meeting is a good one. It is important to bring the other parishioners along whenever the parish makes a transition.

    You asked about council resources in the Northeast. Whenever there is a question about councils, I recommend the local diocesan resources. Many dioceses have an office of pastoral planning and these offices respond to parish requests.

    Another resources is the Conference for Pastoral Planning and Council Development. I have belonged to this group for many years. Its members represent an excellent resource for all who work with councils and planning.

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