Manual for Parish Pastoral Councils
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Recommended Models

The general principles for selecting council members were laid out in the previous pages of this site. Potential council members need to know the basic task of the council and the expectations of the pastor. Council members ought to have specific gifts, such as the ability to study, reflect, and reach agreement with one another. In the selection of council members, the parish should participate. They should have the opportunity to discern which parishioners are suited for the pastoral council. There are many ways to put these principles into effect, and many ways to select council members. The following three models stress the importance of clear expectations, the discernment of gifts, and participation by the community.

Shared Wisdom Model

Benedictine Sister Mary Benet McKinney defined the “Shared Wisdom” model. The essential features of the model are:

  • Information. Parishioners hear about the ministry of the pastoral council through homilies, parish bulletins, etc. *
  • Discernment. People who are interested in the ministry attend a series of meetings. The meetings acquaint people with what service on the council requires. There the parishioners are able to match their own gifts and talents with the needs of the council. This process should not be hurried and should involve conversation, reflection and prayer.
  • Self-Nomination And Confirmation. An individual who feels ready for the council ministry needs to test that insight. He or she should consult the pastor or a staff member.
  • Selection. Once the discernment of nominees is complete, writes Sister Mary Benet, "the process of final selection can vary according to the experience and expectations of the parish or diocese: election, appointment, or a combination of the two."

Election Commitee Model

Another popular model of councilor selection involves the establishment of a parish election committee. This model, recommended by Father William Rademacher and Marliss Rogers, involves the same kind of discernment as the "shared wisdom" model, but uses a committee to screen and discern nominees. The committee then proposes a slate of nominees and conducts a general parish election. It involves the following steps:

  1. Forming the Committee. The Election Committee, which includes the pastor, plans the selection process.
  2. Preparing the People. The committee informs people about the selection of council members by means of the pulpit, the bulletin, and parish forums.
  3. Identifying Nominees. The committee agrees on a list of qualifications and identifies potential nominees. They are parish committee members, parishioners with distinctive skills, or people nominated by other parishioners or by themselves. The committee contacts potential nominees and obtains their consent.
  4. Orientation of Nominees. The committee requires potential nominees to participate in an orientation session.
  5. Preparation of a Slate. Once the committee has determined a slate of nominees, it provides parishioners with opportunities to get to know them. It publicizes their résumés and conducts "meet your candidate" sessions. 6. Election. Elections are conducted before or after Sunday liturgies, or ballots are mailed to registered parishioners.

Combined Model

Yet another recommended model combines open parish meetings and discernment by an election committee. Like the shared wisdom model, this approach uses open meetings to let parishioners participate. And like the election committee model, a small team of parishioners screens nominees, conducts orientation sessions, and selects the council.

  • Pulpit Announcements. The pastor (and, in large parishes, the other parish priests) explains at the announcements following Sunday Mass about the Pastoral Council and his expectations for members. He invites the community to write down the name and phone number of parishioners who have the qualities for council membership and drop them in convenient boxes at Church. This process can be extended to two consecutive weekends to inform parishioners and invite greater participation.
  • Publications. Special bulletin inserts, newsletters, and posters also publicize the plans for the pastoral council. A tear-off slip of paper is provided to nominate a parishioner for council membership.
  • Open Meetings. At one or more evenings of prayer, parishioners pray for guidance and support of the new council.
  • Election Committee. In parishes with existing councils, a committee of outgoing council members, together with the pastor, reviews the nominations. Each nominee is contacted by phone. Those who are willing to serve attend one or more orientation session for further education about the council and the responsibilities of members. In parishes without councils, an ad hoc group or parish staff can contact nominees and orient them to service on the council.
  • Orientation for Nominees. The orientation consists of information and small group process. The pastor expresses his understanding of the pastoral council. The current council chairperson (or another knowledgeable consultant) provides a detailed description of meetings and operation. Participants are invited to state orally and in writing why they want to serve and the skills they could bring to the council ministry.
  • Selection of Members. Afterwards, the pastor and the outgoing council members (or an ad hoc group) review what they saw and heard at the orientation. They then discern, by means of prayer and discussion, which nominees shall be selected for service on the council.