The Pastor and the

Parish Pastoral Council

Councils should be aware that canonically and historically, the Pastor is the individual who bears the ultimate responsibility for the parish. All decisions about the operation and direction of the parish need to carry his agreement and approval.

The Pastor leads the community by example, empowerment of others, appropriate delegation of authority, and participation in the Pastoral planning process.


The Parish Pastoral Council cannot meet as a consultative body without its Pastor.

Source: Archdiocese of Santa Fe: Parish Pastoral Council Handbook

Essential Characteristics

of Parish Pastoral Councils

The Parish Pastoral Council is both a process and a structure which enables parishioners to accept and share more fully the task of continuing the Church’s work in the parish community, to help in calling forth and affirming the various gifts required, and to meet the Pastoral needs of God’s people.

The Parish Pastoral Council works to promote unity in diversity – keeping the parish together by enabling people to think, pray, work, and play together. At the same time that it unites, it respects the diversity of the community by encouraging each person to bring forth his/her special competence in ministry and service to others. 

A Parish Pastoral Council is: 


A Parish Pastoral Council

is prophetic:

As a result of experiencing the fullness of God’s Word, it brings a broader, more challenging vision to parish life. It strives to move outward to deal with some of the bigger issues within the church and in the world, seeking to be a credible sign of concern for justice, peace, reconciliation, and love. It bears witness to all that the reign of God is already unfolding. It is a group of people who are not afraid to challenge and take risks, who support, affirm, and share their convictions of faith with one another as they strive to build more trusting relationships in the continual process of building up

the Body of Christ.

A Parish Pastoral Council

is enabling:

It strives to recognize and acknowledge the giftedness in God’s people and to enable each person’s unique giftedness to surface, to be shared and organized for the up-building of the community of faith, and finally to be celebrated.

What is a Parish Pastoral Council?

The documents of the Vatican II Council called for the creation of parish councils. “In dioceses, as far as possible, councils should be set up to assist the Church’s apostolic work, whether in the field of evangelization and sanctification or in the fields of charity, social relation and the rest…”

Today, Parish Pastoral Councils are to be visioning bodies, consultative to the Pastor. Those called to serve on the Parish Pastoral Council should be individuals who are familiar with the pastoral elements of the Roman Catholic Church and the Archdiocese of Santa Fe as defined by the Archdiocesan Pastoral Plan:


+ Charity and Justice 
+ Education and Catechesis 
+ Sacraments and Worship 
+ Stewardship and Administration 
+ Evangelization 
+ Prayer and Spirituality 
+ Vocation and Priestly
+ Formation 
+ Consultation and Governance 
+ Ecumenism 

Pastoral efforts in each of these areas are essential to the mission of Christ and the Church.


Parish Pastoral Councils are asked to promote the life of the whole parish, focus on long-range planning, and when requested by the Pastor, to research, prayerfully reflect, and offer best conclusions to the Pastor.


Canon Law allows for the establishment of Parish Pastoral Councils at the directive of the Bishop. “After the diocesan bishop has listened to the Presbyteral Council and if he judges it opportune, a Pastoral council is to be established in each parish; the Pastor presides over it, and through it the Christian faithful along with those who share in the Pastoral care of the parish in virtue of their office give their help in fostering Pastor al activity.” Canon 536.

The Archdiocesan Pastoral Plan, at the directive of Archbishop Sheehan, mandates the establishment of Parish Pastoral Councils for each parish (Consultation and Governance, Goal 1, Objective 2).

Source: Archdiocese of Santa Fe: Parish Pastoral Council Handbook

A Parish Pastoral Council

is prayerful

Its members are to be persons of prayer; that is, they see the value of private prayer for their own personal growth in holiness as well as the value of community prayer for growth in Christ’s community of faith and love. The Council thus spends time together in prayer and retreat experiences for the purpose of drawing together in love and trust, to heal divisions, and for the discernment of God’s will for the parish community.

A Parish Pastoral Council

is representative:

It is a representative body rather than a body of representatives: each councilor ministers to the entire parish community. Thus, the Council represents in a holistic sense all areas of parish life: old and young, men and women, laity, clergy, and religious, people with divergent viewpoints and ethnic/cultural backgrounds. Ideally, all work together in an atmosphere and spirit of trust and openness, merging their expertise, insights, and experiences to further the mission of Jesus among all people.

The priests of the parish and sufficient number of lay persons, with their respective gifts and talents, are to be members of the Council. Any members of religious congregations ministering to the parish may also be appropriately represented. Deacons may serve on the council, at the appointment of their Pastor, as ex-officio members only.

A Parish Pastoral Council

is pastoral:

It strives to discern the movement of the Holy Spirit among God’s people in the parish for the purpose of investigating and weighing matters that bear on Pastoral activities affecting the lives of parishioners, and to formulate on behalf of the parish, practical conclusions regarding them.

A Parish Pastoral Council

is discerning:

Its members bring together the needs and the hopes of the parishioners and of the entire community in which they live. Through a prayerful consensus/discern-ment process, it merges the insights, the diverse experiences, the expertise, and the faith of the councilors in order to provide vision and direction for the parish community. That vision finds expression in the priorities established and the broad policies adopted.

A Parish Pastoral Council

is collaborative:


Its members are to be visionary and concerned with appropriate sharing. The Parish Pastoral Council, as a community of stewards, is responsible for leading the parish in ensuring that the resources of the parish are used not only for the parish community to which they belong, but for the common good of all the members of the Church. They act as ambassadors for the policy of the Pastor and the local parish community.


Source: Archdiocese of Santa Fe: Parish Pastoral Council Handbook

Basic Qualifications for Members on a Parish Pastoral Council:

Whether appointed or discerned to membership on a council, basic qualifications for service should include: 

+ Catholic in good standing 
+ Over the age of 18, with the exception of a youth representative 
+ Active member of the Parish 
+ Involved with ministry in the parish 
+ Aware of the Pastoral needs of the parish 
+ Recommendation from their Pastor 
+ Preferably not an employee of the parish or a member of the Parish Staff 

In addition it is highly desirable that members possess the following traits:

+ Knowledge of and appreciation for ecclesial structures and authority 
+ Appreciation and respect for the many cultures and traditions of the Archdiocese

   of Santa Fe 
+ Familiarity with the Parish Mission Statement and Pastoral Plan 
+ Ability to grasp and appreciate the theological and Pastoral priorities in the +

   Archdiocesan Pastoral Plan and the connections to the work of the Parish Pastoral

+ Ability to listen 
+ Ability to work collaboratively with diverse groups 
+ Ability to assume responsibility for completing a task 
+ Ability to articulate ideas 

Source: Archdiocese of Santa Fe: Parish Pastoral Council Handbook

Number of Members on a

Parish Pastoral Council

The number of members of the Parish Pastoral Council will vary depending on the parish’s size, character, and needs. Care should be taken to ensure that its membership reflects the whole faith community.

Constitution of the

Parish Pastoral Council


The Constitution of the Parish Pastoral Council should clearly state how the membership on the Council is constituted as well as give the term of office of each member. The Constitution should also make provision for vacancies by reason of death, resignation, inability to continue in office, or some other cause.

Source: Archdiocese of Santa Fe: Parish Pastoral Council Handbook

Pastoral Council: Officers

The Officers serve the Parish Pastoral Council by coordinating its meetings and facilitating the implementation of decisions that affect the operation of the Council. In general these include the Council President, a Chairperson, a Vice-Chairperson, and a Secretary. The President, Chairperson, Vice-Chairperson, and Secretary function as the Executive Committee of the Council.

1. The Pastor or Parish Life

Coordinator (PLC):

As the delegate of the Archbishop who exercises ordinary jurisdiction over the spiritual and temporal affairs of the parish, normally functions as the President of the Council. The Pastor/PLC presides over

all council meetings; his/her presence is required.

2. The Chairperson:

+ Organizes and coordinates the activities and

    process of the Council and assists in preparing

    the agenda for the Council meetings, together

    with the Pastor/PLC and other members of the

    executive committee 
+ Chairs all meetings of the Council 
+ Performs such duties as the Pastor/PLC or the

   Council may direct, consistent with this office 
+ Holds accountable the members for the

    implementation of decisions recommended by

    the Council and approved by the Pastor 

3. The Vice Chair:

+ Assumes all duties of the

   Chairperson in his/her absence. 
+ Becomes the Chairperson in the

    event of the Chairperson’s death,

    disability, resignation, or removal 
+ Is to be fully informed about all

   Council activities 
+ Performs such duties as the

   Chairperson or Council may

   direct, consistent with the office 

4. The Secretary: 

+ Keeps an accurate record of the minutes of all Council meetings for the ongoing work of the Council and the official archival record of the work of the Council for the parish 
+ Provides a copy of the previous meeting’s minutes and next meeting’s agenda to all Council members prior to the next meeting 
+ Maintains the official roster of all Council members and their terms of office 
+ Is responsible for advanced notification and reminders of scheduled meetings as well as special meetings 
+ Reports to the Council all communications and correspondence as directed by the Chairperson or the Council 
+ Performs such duties as the President or Council may direct, consistent with the office 

Source: Archdiocese of Santa Fe: Parish Pastoral Council Handbook

Pastoral Council: Meetings

The Constitution of the Parish Pastoral Council should state the minimum number of meetings each year that the Council will meet and their regularity, as well as guiding principles (by-laws). Each meeting should include a time for prayer, ordered agenda items, and time for discussion. Care should be taken to allow for adequate time to meet; however, Councils should remember that meetings which are too long are not necessarily effective.


Source: Archdiocese of Santa Fe: Parish Pastoral Council Handbook

The Parish Pastoral Council’s Relationship

to the Parish Finance Council

The Parish Finance Council and the Paris Pastoral Council function interdependently. However, as an important resource to the Parish Pastoral Council, it is essential that both communicate with each other in furthering the parish mission. It is highly recommended that a member of the Parish Finance Council is present at the Parish Pastoral Council meetings as an ex-officio member.

Source: Archdiocese of Santa Fe: Parish Pastoral Council Handbook

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