Peter Denio of the National Leadership Roundtable

on Church Management wrote on March 25, 2010:

  • Representation. I was looking at different guidelines for parish pastoral councils regarding the composition of the council and found this in one diocesan policy:

Official Church documents state that the Pastoral Councils are to represent the people of God, but not in the legal sense. Rather, council members are representative in that they are a witness or a sign of the whole community. They make its wisdom present. (Sacred Congregation for the Clergy, Private letter on Pastoral Councils, # 7).

The Pastoral Council is a representative body rather than a body of representatives. A council member is not a representative for a particular neighborhood, age bracket, special interest group or organization. However, in the spirit of the diocesan Synod, due regard is to be given to the cultural, ethnic and gender diversity of the community, social conditions, professions, gifts and roles when choosing council members. (Synod Initiative #8, Objective 6.)

Is this an accurate reflection of what is intended for council composition?

 Cultural Competency. Would you know of any other books, articles, etc. that discusses the topic of cultural competency in regards to PPC composition and leadership?

  • Guidelines. Do you have a version of guidelines from a diocese, or a version that you have created that you would think is a model for other dioceses/parishes?


Mark F. Fischer replied:

1. Representation. You asked about how dioceses treat the topic of representation. It is important to distinguish between representation in the ordinary political sense and representation as “making present” the wisdom of the community. Pastoral councils represent, not by becoming advocates for this or that parish bloc, but by seeking the entire parish’s good. The art of building up the Christian community is synonymous with the word “pastoral.” Click here for a discussion of “representation.”

2. Cultural Competency. Your second question was about “cultural competency” in regard to PPC composition and leadership. Wise pastors certainly want councillors who make present the wisdom of every part of the parish and its cultural groups. At the same time, however, it would be foolish to see membership on the pastoral council in terms of filling quotas. In 2002, Maria Elena Uribe and I published an article about different cultures in the pastoral council.

3. Guidelines. In your third question, you asked about model guidelines for other dioceses and parishes. Regarding diocesan guidelines for parish pastoral councils, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles has a good one.

You may suspect that I am unduly partisan because I live in LA. But the guidelines have been adopted almost word for word by our rival to the north, the Archdiocese of San Francisco.

You also asked about models for parishes. In the year 2000 I tried my hand at writing a parish pastoral council “foundation document”.

You asked about guidelines for diocesan pastoral councils. I’m less knowledgeable about them, because most of my work has been on parish pastoral councils. It is safe to assume that the “pastoral” council (whether on the diocesan or on the parish level) is a council that serves the apostolate of pastors . This is the basic teaching of “Apostolorum successores,” the 2004 “Directory” on the pastoral office of bishops by the Vatican Congregation for Bishops.

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