Parish Pastoral Councils And Parish Pastoral Assemblies

Parish Assemblies and Parish Pastoral Councils are leadership groups within a given parish community that are concerned with pastoral planning. Their primary role is to help to discern the needs of the parish and to plan how these needs can be best met by helping people in the community to recognise their gifts and talents and to use them for the good of the parish and its mission. Photo shows the Glounthaune Parish Pastoral Council, which was nominated in 2011.

When the worldwide Church gathered at the Second Vatican Council almost fifty years ago, it opened up the way to a very different understanding of what it means to be church. The vision that emerged from Vatican II spoke of the Church not primarily as an institution, not as the hierarchy, not as an organization but rather as ‘the People of God.’ Understanding the Church as “the people of God” challenges us to see and understand who we are in new ways. Professor Adrian Hastings, Professor Emeritus of Theology at Leeds University writes:

The term ‘the people of God’ tends to evoke the basic equality of all the baptized. Indeed, this phrase is meant to convey not only the status of parishioners as Christians, but also role they play in continuing the mission of Christ. The equality of the membership is thus demonstrated not by making priests less, but by elevating all the baptised and recognising that all share in the mission of Christ.Vatican II stressed that all Christians, by virtue of their baptism, share in the task of continuing Christ’s mission. In other words it is baptism, not ordination, that gives us a share in the mission of Christ. This reflects a move away from the traditional clerical view of ministry to one where all the baptized are invited to use their gifts in the service God’s kingdom.Thus, the last fifty years have marked a shift away from thinking of the parish as a place where individuals and families are ministered to by their priests towards thinking of the parish as a community of disciples, priests and people, working together and using their gifts to serve the needs of the community and the world. To give concrete expression to this rediscovered sense of our shared mission, the Church encourages that a parish pastoral council, made up of both the clergy of the parish and representatives of the community, be formed in every parish to help guide the parish in its task of building up a more vibrant Christian community that lives up to the name of ‘people of God.’

Parish pastoral councils and parish pastoral assemblies are founded on the conviction that each of us has a part to play in our own particular parish community and the realization that the life of our parish can be incredibly enriched if and when we all are willing to put our gifts and talents at the service of the community.

This rediscovered recognition of the gift and the role of all the baptized in the life of the Church closely echoes the spirit of the first Christian communities, as witnessed to in the letters of St Paul.

      There are many different gifts, but it is always the same Spirit;
      there are many different ways of serving,
      but it is always the same Lord.
      There are many different forms of activity,
      but in everybody it is the same God who is at work in them all.
      The particular manifestation of the Spirit granted to each one
      is to be used for the general good.

1 Cor 12:4-7
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