Kilbeggan Parish Pastoral Assembly

Published on November 5, 2022

“The joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives
of all who encounter Jesus,”
Pope Francis, “Evangelii Gaudium” (“The Joy of the Gospel”)
In 2013, Pope Francis issued an Apostolic Exhortation to the Church, “The
Joy of the Gospel.” With his opening words, Pope Francis reminds us that
the purpose and mission of every parish is to facilitate an encounter with
Jesus: in his word, in his sacraments, and in his people. These diocesan
‘Norms for Parish Pastoral Councils’ are offered as a support towards a
renewed personal encounter with Jesus as parishes in the Diocese of Meath
give expression to their baptismal call.
The Second Vatican Council called on the People of God to be instruments
of the Holy Spirit by participating more fully in the life of the Church.
Parishes were encouraged to recognise the co-responsibility of all the
baptised in continuing the mission of Jesus. Parish Pastoral Councils were
put forward as the structure best suited to enabling priests and
parishioners to share the responsibility for keeping [the parish] alive in
Christ, thus making them credible witnesses to the words of Jesus: “By this
love you have for one another, everyone will know that you are my
disciples. (Jn. 14:35)
Parish Pastoral Councils grew rapidly in the 1970s as a result, and although
there were general patterns from parish to parish, no two councils were
exactly alike in structure and function. With the publication of the new
revised Code of Canon Law in 1983, Diocesan Pastoral Councils became
mandatory and Parish Pastoral Councils were highly recommended.
The Code also gave these councils a more specific purpose and direction.
They were to become clearly ‘pastoral’ in nature, giving expression to Jesus’
words in Matthew 25:35-36: “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was
thirsty and you gave me something to drink……..”.
The establishment of a Parish Pastoral Council in every parish in the
Diocese is a new initiative encouraged by our Bishop to invigorate, support,
and renew our parishes.
In essence, a Parish Pastoral Council is a ‘living’ model with the potential to
reflect the collective wisdom of the faith community where people learn to
become stewards of the gifts of God, live the liturgy, build up the Church
and serve the Gospel through a process of:
• Stimulating thinking
• Facilitating collaboration
• Encouraging dialogue
• Engaging in discernment
• Enabling decision-making
• Formulating, promoting, and implementing practical pastoral
Council members are invited to gather in a communion of shared
responsibility for the charism of the Church, thereby contributing to the
strengthening of the faith community in much the same way the first
Christians assumed responsibility for the pastoral care of its members.
A parish is a community of the Christian faithful established within a
particular church, the pastoral care of which is entrusted to a Parish Priest.
In that context, parishes are charged with the mission of the universal
church to preach the Good News; to teach; to celebrate the sacraments,
especially the Holy Eucharist; to heal and to liberate in the name of Jesus.
Everything a parish undertakes is done in order to fulfil that mission in
communion with the local Bishop who unites all parishes with one
another and with the universal church. For more detail see Section 1 [S1]
of the diocesan ‘Best Practice for Parish Pastoral Councils’ available online
The Parish Pastoral Council therefore, is a faith-filled, consultative body of
the faithful, through which priests and people work together as coresponsible partners in furthering the mission of Christ in their own
parish. Through this partnership a vibrant Christian community, rooted
in baptism and marked by its faith, worship and service can continue to be
nurtured. [S2]
The Parish Pastoral Council is a
consultative body responsible to the
Parish Priest who is the
administrator of the parish and, who
in turn is responsible to the Bishop.
The Parish Pastoral Council’s
consultative role is emphasised in Canon 536 of The Code of Canon Law.
[Ref. S2 of ‘Best Practice for Parish Pastoral Councils’]
Historically, the term ‘pastoral’ has its origin in the role of the shepherd and
their care of the sheep entrusted to them, a concept later adopted by the early
Christians to emphasise the watchful care and social responsibility of the
Christian community. Psalms 78, 52, and 23 clarify the nature and function
of a Parish Pastoral Council referencing imagery associated with ‘pastoring’:
protection, tending to needs, strengthening the weak, encouragement,
feeding and nourishing, refreshing, restoring, leading by example,
comforting and guiding people in their pursuit of holiness. [Ref. S2]
In other words, the primary concern of the Parish Pastoral Council is
promoting ‘pastoral action’, not administration, buildings, asset
management, finance, appointment of staff, all of which are the responsibility
of other groups in the parish.
Areas of pastoral focus for a Parish Pastoral Council may include:
• Liturgy, worship, sacramental preparation, & prayer
• Faith formation, catechesis, evangelisation, scripture, renewal programmes
• Outreach to lapsed Catholics, ‘new seekers’, ethnic groups
• Promoting vocations to priesthood & religious life
• Supporting family life
• Proclamation of God’s Word—publications, virtual platforms, etc.
• Social outreach to those on the margins, those in difficulty
• Pastoral Care of the sick, the bereaved, those in hospital, the dying
• Youth ministry and outreach
• Environmental action—Care of our Common Home
• Ecumenism
• Supporting a safeguarding culture in the parish
• Pastoral planning and parish policy making [Ref. S2]
“Let us listen to what all the
faithful say, because in every
one of them the
Spirit of God breathes.”
(St. Paulinus of Nola)
The Parish Pastoral Council should be representative of the entire parish,
recognising and reflecting the parish’s rich diversity of age, gender,
culture, skills-set, etc, which reflects the wisdom that resides in the people
of God.
A committee/steering group should be established by the Parish Priest to
assist with and oversee the process of establishing a Parish Pastoral
The Parish Pastoral Council should consist of 7-12 people, depending on
the size and nature of the Parish.
Parish Pastoral Council members should be:
• Baptised
• Practicing the Catholic faith
• In full communion with the Church
• A regular attender of Mass in the Parish
• Be at least sixteen years of age
• Supporting the Parish through giving of time, energy and finances
• Aware of the nature, role and work of the PPC
• Understanding that they will be working as part of a team
The methods used for selecting members of the Parish Pastoral Council
vary depending on rural/urban context, population, geographical size of
the parish, number of distinct pastoral areas/number of churches within a
parish, one/two parishes, etc. Given the wisdom and experience of local
churches, the diocese advocates three models of election:
Having completed the preparatory work and parishioners are wellinformed of the intention to set up a Parish Pastoral Council, nominations
are sought from parishioners. Consideration should be given to the
process for submitting nominations and specified closing date. Thereafter,
nominees are invited to a number of open meetings for instruction and
formation before commencing the work of the Council.
Nominees who feel called to service in the parish are invited to participate
in a short parish programme of discernment delivered by someone
experienced in pastoral leadership. At the end of the programme, those
called by the Holy Spirit are invited to confirm their names for
consideration as members of the Parish Pastoral Council.
Each ministry group in the parish nominates one candidate for service on
the Parish Pastoral Council and from these nominations a Parish Pastoral
Council is formed. This Council then undergoes a period of formation in
the workings of their role and function.
In all models, if the number of nominees exceeds or falls short of the
required quota, the parish priest and committee should discern the skillset required on the council and prioritise nominees accordingly or co-opt
additional members for the Parish Pastoral Council.
After the initial meeting, the newly formed Parish Pastoral Council
members are tasked with responsibility for electing officers to ensure the
efficient and effective management of meetings, prayer, and the
implementation of decisions.
The Parish Pastoral Council is called to read and reflect the “signs of the
times” in it’s decision-making and planning in the light of the Holy Spirit
and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, in conformity with Church
teaching and Diocesan norms. Such properly informed consensus through
dialogue is the desired process for decision–making within a Parish
Pastoral Council.
To ensure the efficient and effective management of meetings, the Parish
Pastoral Council may on occasion establish sub-groups which take
responsibility for particular areas of research, coordination and pastoral
The newly formed Parish Pastoral Council should dedicate time to
compiling a Mission Statement. It unifies members in a common purpose,
brings clarity to their role, inspires commitment, and communicates to
parishioners a vision that is missionary, welcoming, engaging, and centred
on the word of God and the Eucharist.
The term of office for membership of the Parish Pastoral Council is three
years, with members not serving more than two consecutive terms. Terms
of all Council members should be staggered so that no more than half of
the membership will be replaced in any one year.
In some instances, the Bishop will entrust the pastoral and spiritual
leadership of a number of parishes to a Parish Priest. While maintaining
the historical, geographical, faith and cultural identities of the parishes
involved, the establishment of a single/common Parish Pastoral Council is
Parish Pastoral Councils are encouraged to strengthen their identity and
deepen their understanding of mission in a spirit of prayer. Meetings should
begin and end with prayer, with an extended period of prayer during the
meeting to discern the Spirit’s inspiration in the work to be undertaken. Where
possible, Parish Pastoral Councils are encouraged to participate in an annual
Day of Recollection/Retreat.
Since the Parish Pastoral Council is a ministry of service to the entire parish, it
is appropriate for new members to be introduced and commissioned within the
celebration of Sunday Eucharist.
• Evangelisation—Encountering the Person of Jesus Christ
• Noble simplicity in celebrating the Sacraments
• Welcoming
• On-going Faith Formation and Catechesis
• Personal Discipleship
• Outreach to the Marginalised
• Stewardship
• Passion for Vocations
• Commitment to Service
(Adapted from The Seven Signs of Parish Vitality—’Divine Renovation’.)
• Everyone has something to offer—it’s our baptismal calling
• It is an opportunity to help others grow in their faith and continue the work
of evangelisation and mission
• You can contribute in a positive way to the pastoral care of your parish
• Your involvement affirms the work already done in your parish
• You can grow in your own understanding of parish and nurture your faith
• You can help others commit to a spirit of service, putting faith into action.