Parish Pastoral Councils (PPCs) grew out of Vatican II. In 1989, it became the policy of the Archdiocese of Chicago that every parish in the Archdiocese have a Parish Pastoral Council. The Office for Councils helps parishes form and reform a PPC, discern members for their councils, train members to serve on the councils more effectively, and helps PPCs assess their own progress. Booklets that contain “Norms and Theological Reflections” for those on Parish Pastoral Councils are available from the Office for Councils in English, Spanish and Polish editions.

The norms point out that “the pastor and the people are to work together in making decisions after prayerful discernment, study and discussion. Prayer is an essential component in the process, reflecting an awareness of the Spirit’s presence in the community of faith. The Council’s role is to recommend policies concerning the parish in pastoral matters … The pastor’s active participation in this process is essential. Some matters, however, might best be handled without recourse to the usual consensus decision-making process.”

The norms for PPCs follow:

Parish Pastoral Council Norms

  1. Purpose: The Parish Pastoral Council exercises shared responsibility for the pastoral life of the parish under the leadership of the pastor. In this context the purpose of the council is to prayerfully engage the people and the pastor in common reflection about the parish’s mission and the ministry, to plan, and to evaluate in light of the Gospel and Church teaching. It therefore has four basic responsibilities:
    1) to research the needs, the ideas and the hopes of the faith community;
    2) 
    to encourage and support existing ministries;
    3) 
    to evaluate the quality of life in the parish faith community;
    4) 
    to plan for the parish’s future by recommending policies, procedures, and programs that will implement its values and fulfill the Church’s mission.

  2. Function: The Parish Pastoral Council is to prepare in a timely fashion (i.e., within the first year of formation) and regularly review a parish mission statement. It does this by first conducting a parish needs assessment in the areas of spiritual development (including liturgy, evangelization, and ecumenism), parish life, human concerns (justice and peace), Catholic education (both schools and adult religious education.) Then it is to relate its findings to the broader community, to the Archdiocese, and to the universal Church. The council is also responsible for pastoral planning, including periodic reevaluation of the parish mission statement, ongoing needs assessment, defining parish goals, setting broad strategies for implementing those goals, and evaluating the parish’s success in carrying out the Church’s mission.
  3. Composition: The council is composed of members of the parish pastoral staff and members of the parish and is presided over by the pastor. Although the pastor presides over the council, he is not its chairperson. The question of the participation of full time members of the pastoral staff in Parish Pastoral Council should be determined in such a way as to insure that the active participation of the parishioners not be diminished while respecting the unique contribution of the staff in the life of the parish. All priests assigned to full time pastoral ministry in the parish are members and should participate fully in council deliberation. The Parish Pastoral Council is about the life of a community of faith and as such its members should be members of that community of faith. If there is any need for pastoral discretion, that should be done by the pastor, as it is in other matters. Prospective council members are to participate in an orientation that outlines the council’s responsibilities with an emphasis on its primary role of carrying out the parish’s spiritual mission. After joining the council, members should be provided with frequent opportunities to grow spiritually and to acquire the skills necessary for carrying out their responsibilities.
  4. Style: The theological basis for the deliberations of the Parish Pastoral Council has two dimensions:
    1) all its members are to form a community of faith and shared responsibility;
    2) the pastor has a ministry of leadership. In other words, the pastor and the people are to work together in making decisions after prayerful discernment, study and discussion. Prayer is an essential component in the process, reflecting an awareness of the Spirit’s presence in the community of faith. The council’s role is to recommend policies concerning the parish pastoral matters. This is done most effectively when the council works toward consensus on any given issue. The pastor’s active participation in the process is essential. Some matters, however, might best be handled without recourse to the usual consensus decision-making process.
  5. Structure: The Parish Pastoral Council is to establish at least four commissions or similar         structures to cover the following areas:

1) parish spiritual life;
2) 
Catholic education;
3) 
Human concerns;
4) 
Parish life.

At least one member of the council is to serve on each commission as a liaison. The commissions should be composed of interested parishioners and their membership approved by the council. The commissions are accountable to the council and are to act in accord with its policies. Within such policies, the commissioners are free to operate in their own legitimate competencies. Occasionally, an issue may arise that does not seem to fall within the purview of any of the council’s commissions. At such times, the council may establish an ad hoc commission to handle the matter. When its task is completed, however, the ad hoc commission is to be disbanded. At the same time, there should not be many ad hoc commissions because most issues are to be handled by the ordinary council structures.

*Source: Archdiocese of Chicago website