Initially, a parish may not have a Pastoral Council so a decision to establish such a body may emanate from a variety of situations. These may include encouragement from the local Bishop, a recommendation from parishioners gathered at a parish assembly or a positive experience with Pastoral Councils by a pastor or parishioners in other parishes.
After a Pastoral Council is carefully established, its contribution to parish life will continue to evolve. Some of the possible stages may be described as follows:
Developing: The pastor and parishioners tentatively begin to work together, growing in understanding of their role and function, building their team work, planning and clarifying their goals and refining their meeting operations.
Blossoming: Gradually, the operations of the Pastoral Council become more streamlined, helpful strategies are developed to deal with challenges that arise, enthusiasm grows, the Council becomes more of a faith-community and fruitful outcomes ensue.
Slowing: Even with the best of intentions, the pressures of life and the normal growth of a group can mean that there is some slowing of enthusiasm and perhaps a degree of loss of focus and direction. Also, it can happen that some members may have to resign because of changed life circumstances, and so the dynamics of the group change. This is the time when the observation may be made that “Parish Councils don’t work”, when in fact it is simply the strategies being used and the approaches being taken which need to be refreshed.Refreshing: The group recognises the need to re-energise and re-focus the Pastoral Council, and chooses to consider some basic aspects, including:
- Revisiting the role and function of the Council in the context of the Mission of the Church.
- Setting aside time for further relationship building.
- Recording all the projects and issues which have been considered
by the Council in the last term of office or previous year. The size
of the list can be quite surprising and encouraging.
- Reviewing of meeting operations e.g. what are we doing well at meetings? What could we do better? This gives an opportunity to all members to offer constructive suggestions.
- Reviewing and updating the Parish Pastoral Plan or the list of Pastoral Council goals.
Renewing: The Pastoral Council plans and implements a careful process for finding new members after each term of office has been completed. For the sake of continuity, it is expected that approximately half the Pastoral Council members will choose to continue for a further term. Then, the cycle of development continues.