Parish Pastoral Council“What a great gift it is to be the Church, to be part of the People of God!” Pope Francis
What is a Parish Pastoral Council?
A Parish Pastoral Council (PPC) is a consultative body of the faithful, representative of the whole parish community, willing to work in close partnership with the priest(s) of the parish to further the mission of Christ and his Church in this corner of the Lord’s vineyard that is a parish.
The PPC shares the responsibility for building the parish into a vibrant Christian community that promotes the Gospel values of love, justice and peace. The PPC actively seeks the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and is guided by the teachings, laws and recommendations of the Universal Church and the local diocesan Church.
The authority of a PPC is ultimately based on the relationship of trust between a parish priest and his council.
What a Parish Pastoral Council is not?
The PPC is not
- A legislative body for issuing decrees or statutes that the parish priest must either sign or veto;
- A grievance airing forum – it is not the place for different groups and individuals scoring points off each other and manipulating parish policy; it is not the place for the adult choir to criticise and denounce the recently constituted folk choir; neither should it be the priest’s primary vehicle for taking the pulse of the parish;
- A board of directors of a non-profit making organisation with the parishioners as the principal shareholders;
- A democratically elected governing body because the Church is not a democracy but a hierarchical communion
- Simply a talk-shop complying with the letter of the law and the wishes of the bishop.
Areas of Concern for a Parish Pastoral Council:
The Code of Canon Law gives general guidelines: “In this council, which is presided over by the parish priest, Christ’s faithful – together with those who, by virtue of their office are engaged in pastoral care in the parish – give their help by fostering pastoral action.”
Such pastoral action should include:
- Promoting the prayer life and the faith life of the parish.
- Adult Religious Formation and the Promotion of Scripture
- Support for Family Life
- Liturgy (though a separate group may be established to deal with this)
- Ongoing skills training and formation for those on the PPC and for others in the parish
- Care of people – the poor, elderly, youth, disabled, those who live alone etc. At least one member of the PPC should be responsible for youth ministry in the parish and be in regular contact with the Diocesan Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry.
- Reaching out to the alienated and newcomers to the parish
- Working to improve communication throughout the parish especially through the medium of a good, informative, and attractively produced parish newsletter
- Dealing with social issues such as alcohol and drug abuse, housing, homelessness, etc. which affect the life of the parish
- Developing appropriate parish policies regarding such issues as the times and number of Masses and the celebration of other sacraments and liturgical celebrations
- Building up good relationships with other PPC’s in the pastoral area, the deanery and the diocese.
- Care of the sick, those in hospital, and the dying
- Supporting the implementation of safeguarding policies and procedures
- Electing representatives to the Pastoral Area Council
How the PPC functions is at least as important as anything it does. While the role of the PPC is consultative and advisory, it is vital that true listening and genuine dialogue takes place at meetings. Pope St. John Paul II warned in his apostolic letter, On Entering a New Millennium, against setting up meaningless external structures which are ‘masks of communion’ and give the false impression that real listening and dialogue are taking place. He called for a ‘spirituality of communion’ which “implies the ability to see what is positive in others, to welcome and prize it as a gift from God … [It] means to know how to make room for our brothers and sisters … resisting the selfish temptation which constantly beset us and provoke competition, careerism, distrust and jealousy”. [Novo Millennio Ineunte, #43].
If the members of the PPC are reluctant to express their views, if the priest’s view, or the view of any one individual on the council, always prevail, then the PPC would appear to be dysfunctional. The Second Vatican Council gives clear guidelines to priests on how to proceed in its Dogmatic Constitution on the Church: “Let sacred pastors recognise and promote the dignity as well as the responsibility of the lay person in the Church. Let them willingly make use of their prudent advice. Let them confidently assign duties to them in the service of the Church, allowing them freedom and room for action.” [Lumen Gentium, #37].
The members of the current Parish Pastoral Council (2019 – 2023) are:
Fr. John Eze
Fr. Padraig Kelliher
Fr. Pat Murphy