Dennis Corcoran wrote “Chapter 10: Building Councils” for A Pastor’s Toolbox. The best part of his chapter is his emphasis on planning the agenda for meetings of the pastoral and finance councils. To avoid painful and dead-end meetings, he wrote, “you need to determine in advance what positive outcomes you want to emerge from the meeting, then focus your energy and passion making them happen” (105). In other words, pastors consult councils to gain the wisdom of the members, and this happens best when the pastors are honest about the questions they face and the kind of knowledge they hope to gain.
Council members will feel that they are making a significant contribution when the pastor expects their best work and acts on it. Such pastors, wrote, Corcoran, need to find “a reason why your next council meeting is important to you and parish members” (106). Meetings should be well planned, and pastors should act on the advice they receive.
Unfortunately, the chapter is marred by misstatements of fact. For example, Corcoran traces the origin of the pastoral council to the Vatican II Decree on the Laity (no. 26), rather than the Decree on Bishops (no. 27). Moreover, he states that “Canon law . . . mandates publishing the parish budget for parishioners” (110) — a good idea, but not found in Canon Law. That being said, the chapter reflects good human relations skills and parish experience.