PROVIDENCE — The diocesan Office for Pastoral Planning is accepting registrations for informational training sessions designed to help parishioners develop pastoral councils in their parishes.
The diocese is currently reviewing all parishes across the diocese to ensure the most efficient delivery of services to the faithful at a time of declining Mass attendance and sacramental practice, as well as an increasing number of priests reaching retirement age coupled with a reduction in the number of young men pursuing vocations to the priesthood.
As parishes across the nation seek ways to adapt to these changes in faith practice and demographics, Bishop Thomas J. Tobin is encouraging all pastors to establish “functioning and effective” pastoral councils with the participatory support of the laity.
“Our goal is to get each parish to start a council, and if a council already exists, to help develop ways to strengthen it,” said Rebecca Page Perez, director of the Office of Pastoral Planning.
A pastoral council is a consultative body of the Church that serves to advise the parish priest about pastoral issues, such as care of families, catechetical formation, evangelization, Catholic education, care of the sick, dying and poor and the promotion of lay involvement.
The council’s main purpose is to investigate, deliberate and reach conclusions about such pastoral matters and make recommendations to the parish priest or bishop.
The next training session will be held on Sept. 9 from 6:30 p.m. – 8 p.m. at Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church, 1081 Mineral Spring Ave., North Providence. Pre-registration is required.
In the session participants will learn constructive methods in order to establish a pastoral council in their parish, or to strengthen an existing one.
They will learn to investigate and study issues affecting the parish community and to listen objectively to their pastor, parish staff and fellow parishioners as these issues are addressed.
The input and recommendations of the laity are a very important part of the process in helping to guide pastors in their decision making, especially when they are faced with challenges that must be addressed.
The director noted that there is an important distinction between a pastoral council and a financial council, a body that many parishes already have.
“With the pastoral council, pastoral needs, not financial needs, are addressed,” Page Perez said.
She also noted that if a parish does not already have a pastoral council in place parishioners should not feel overwhelmed in starting one.
“It’s not a lot of work if you set it up correctly,” she said.
“The parishioners are there to assist their pastor, who has to approve any recommendations made. It’s a calling of the flock.”
To register for the Sept. 9 training session, contact Rebecca J. Page Perez, J.D., at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 401-278-4610.