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Parish Pastoral Council day..."Equipping Parishes for Mission"

Filed under: ParishPastoral Centre

Day for Parish Pastoral Councils… “Equipping Parish Pastoral Councils for Mission”… January 25th 2014, Menlo Park Hotel.

We recently held, what has become, our annual day for Parish Pastoral Councils .
Sr. Anne Codd pbvm., Ph.D facilitated the day and  PPC members from 18 parishes attended.  Bishop Drennan was in attendance for most of the sessions, despite other commitments, and finished off the day with some affirming words for all of us involved in parish.
The stated purpose of the event was that of enhancing skills for participation in the Parish Pastoral Council (as officers and members) and for furthering their service ‘for mission’ in their parishes.  There was a great opportunity to explore what is being learned - from experience and reflection… using a combination of role-play and discussion  - about good practice by PPCs.  Some key points which emerged were as follows:

The importance of agreements
Each PPC needs to discuss and come to its own agreements re procedures, for example:

  •   starting time, latest finishing time ;
  •   understanding that it is possible for people to be delayed through no fault of their own, and that they will not be misjudged;
  •   that a calendar of meetings is desirable; this way meetings will be regular, there will be no need for ‘date for the next meeting’, and there will be no distinctions between members who can and cannot be done without;
  •   whether reminders of the meetings will be given, and if they will, then how, by whom and how many days before the meeting.
  •   whether apologies, in normal course of events, are to include a reason for absence – obviously ‘personal/family reasons’ are respected – but giving no reason leaves space for fantasy;
  •   whether minutes are ‘taken as read’ or time is given for reading at start of meeting;
  •   that all members include themselves, rather than holding officers responsible for including them; 
  •   that responsibility for personal well-being in the group rests with each member;
  •   how and when the agenda, as prepared by the president, chair and secretary will be circulated;
  •   how and when members may suggest items for the agenda;
  •   about AOB:  what is it for, e.g. items of information?
  •   that items will not normally be concluded on the first night on which they arise; in light of what PPC is - a group serving in faith, for mission - there will be need for communication/exploration, reflection, coming to a proposal, seeking out people who have gifts for the projects if and when decided, etc.

The President
While all parishioners, together and in a real sense, are responsible for living and promoting God’s mission, the Parish Priest is appropriately accountable in law, Church and civil, for the parish. The PP must be able to stand over decisions, and only he has the authority to make them.  He is the president of the PPC, ex officio (in virtue of his office). No meeting of the PPC may take place in his absence, unless he permits it and names a delegate to hold his interests and keep him informed.  It is important that the president participates in the dialogues and discernment of the PPC, so that these take account of his perspectives, and that the views of others may inform his decisions.
If and when the PP vacates his post, the PPC ceases to exist.  A new and wise PP will surely want to talk with those who were members of the former PPC.  It would be one, generally valuable, means of getting to know the parish.  He may decide to reconvene them and, with himself, formally constitute them as PPC for whatever length of time he considers good for the parish/mission, OR he may decide to open the process to the parish and form a PPC in which some of those who were members of the former PPC may be chosen (in whatever manner this is done in the particular parish).  Those who were members of the former PPC have no entitlement to be members of a new PPC.

The Chairperson 
The main tasks of chairing relate to the group as a whole and to the agenda.  In this regard the chairperson:

  •   prepares questions to get the group working, but not answers;
  •   helps the group to open up a topic by inviting all to express their views, gather information, reflect on possibilities that would be good for the parish and its mission;
  •   encourages members to suggest what steps might be taken , and also to follow them up and report back to the group;
  •   leads the PPC to be a learning group in a learning Church, through reviewing its work and experience; 
  •   helps the group to avoid seeing challenges as always from ‘outside’ and slipping into a culture of blame.

The Secretary
It seemed wise that the secretarial tasks be taken by a person who will be least stressed be them.  S/he should not have to carry any costs involved.

Skill of participating
Participants were invited to consider the value of an agreed code for their work together, e.g.:

  •   Speak with good intention and ‘on purpose’ (i.e. stay on task);
  •   Listen with attention and compassion (without prejudice);
  •   Hold in safety all persons present, talked about or even thought about.

There was much more that could be said, but given our limitations, including time, this much was generally agreed to have been clear and helpful.  All present had a pleasant and fruitful time. 

  All in accordance with the Code of Canon Law and the National Framework Document.