Thursday, February 02, 2006

Pastoral Questions

Our Diocese recently had a meeting with pastors and parish pastoral council members. The following four questions were discussed:

1.) The parish should be a school of prayer for all its people. How might a pastoral council help realize this goal?

2.) The parish should foster the exchange of gifts among all its members. How might a pastoral council encourage this sharing of gifts, especially in a multicultural setting?

3.) The parish priest should be a spiritual father. How might a pastoral council enable the pastor to be more than a business manager or a CEO?

4.) A pastoral council is more than a secular managing group or a committee, yet it shares some characteristics of other advisory bodies. How can a pastoral council learn from secular models? In what ways is its identity different from these models?

The challenges in our Diocese are many. We have rich communities, where neighbors are celebrities and CEOs of major corporations. We have poor communities where children can't play outside because of the danger of a stray bullet or needle. We have many ethnic groups, bound together by their Faith, but who express that faith vastly different ways. How do we, as a parish and a people, move away from merely sharing ethnic foods and dress to sharing poetry, history, devotions, spiritual and ethical values?

The questions were not answered at the meeting. Fr. P. reprinted them in the bulletin so that our parish, as a whole, would have the opportunity to reflect upon them and share their ideas with our pastoral council.

As the number of parish priests diminish, pastoral councils are becoming more important. The pastor cannot do it all--nor should he be expected to. Priests have their strengths--some are great administrators; some are great homilists; some are highly spiritual; some are intellectual; some "walk the earth." They also have their weaknesses and I think pastoral councils play an important role in shoring up the weaknesses, especially (although not exclusively) from an administrative point of view.

The challenge, as always, is to ensure the Church is truly catholic--that all are welcome. But we cannot forget the wise servant who, when given 20 talents, invested them and doubled them.

But that's life out here in a large, multi-ethnic, multicultural parish on the West Coast. Your thoughts?