Category Archives: pastoral planning info

A Model for Discerning New Parish Pastoral Council Members

Since the publication of Parish Pastoral Council Guidelines (November, 2010), many of our newly merged parishes have convoked new parish pastoral councils that incorporated membership from each of the merging parishes. Many of these new councils have been in existence for a few years and it may be time to look for new members as terms are concluded.

The diocesan Guidelines have a section, Membership Types, (see page 10) which determines the timing for the addition of new members to the PPC. It states that:

  1. A steering committee for recruitment of members is most helpful to the process.
  2. Each member is asked to serve for a three year term, which may be renewed once.
  3. The terms of office for council members should be staggered in order to assure sufficient stability and continuity.

The section that follows, Recruitment of New Council Members (see page 11) indicates a preference for the Discernment Method as the way to provide for a communal changeover in this leadership ministry.

This Toolkit offers some clarification on the meaning of Discernment and the spiritual nature of the process of consensus that yields new members suited to the pastoral needs of the parish. A timeline for this activity is sketched, as well as a format for arriving at and executing a DISCERNMENT NIGHT.

Included as several attachments:

  • optional bulletin announcements,
  • a sample “in-pew” form for nominating candidates,
  • and a worship aid template which needs to be personalized locally for the DISCERNMENT NIGHT.

The Pastor works with a small steering committee who will organize the local timeline and discernment process. The Parish Pastoral Council takes an active role in the discernment process. The parish as a whole is refreshed on the pastoral planning role of the Council and the qualities expected of those who serve in this ministry.

It is recommended that a facilitator be engaged who will function as a spiritual leader and a moderator who gathers input from the candidates and helps them to move to consensus with the rest of the Council.

Environment suggestions as well as materials needed (flip charts, worship aids, etc.) are described in this Toolkit.

A Model for Discerning New Parish Pastoral Council Members

Sample Bulletin Announcements

In Pew Form

The Discernment Night


Hallmarks of Parish Vitality

We’ve been telling you that a collaborative effort was underway in the diocesan offices to create a self-assessment tool for parishes to use. The toolkit, called “
Hallmarks of Parish Vitality“, is designed to provide parishes with feedback that is helpful to parish leadership for future planning. Clicking on the image at left will take you directly to the toolkit.

“Hallmarks of Parish Vitality” is toolkit #15 under the Pastoral Planning tab. 





Gathered and Sent

Gathered and Sent – Jack Jerzeel     JustFaith Conference   Louisville, KY        May 4, 2011

How a parish defines itself can be a structural impediment. 

  • Does it see itself as a community of saints, prophets, and martyrs? 
  • Is the practice of the faith actually the practice of compassion – comfort the afflicted, etc.? 

Role of what we call Social Ministry can be evaluated in several ways:

  • as an extra, an optional side dish to the real meal of parish life
  • with the assumption that a commitment to the poor and vulnerable is biblical and central to the Catholic faith and
  • this is evidenced in measureable evidence: the job descriptions of staff, budgeting, homilies, calendars, language. 

The tradition of compassion for the poor is quintessentially Catholic – the vision of God’s justice and Jesus’ way of compassion are integral to our mission.  Do the ministries support this, are we trying to form real life saints, prophets, and martyrs?

We may need a dramatic reconfiguration of the Catholic parish, a move toward a new paradigm.   While social ministry is thriving in some places, it is not in others.  Many pastors are not very engaged in social mission of the Church.  Many liturgists and religious educators are disinterested.  Their lack of enthusiasm is reflected in parish budgets. 

The solution does not lie in more encyclicals or programs.  The obstacle is the assumption that the parish is organized is such a way that a majority of Catholics are not really involved in social ministry.  The Gospel repeats over and over again.

The drama of gathering and getting ready for the work of our lives which is “sending:”

  • Gathering is the work of liturgy, and faith formation. 
  • Sending is about mission, serving victims of injustice, like St. Vincent de Paul – making place for people in need. 
  • Matthew 25 – the last reading of the Church year, read on the feast of Christ the King. 

To know compassion for the poor is to know God.  Without both gathering and sending, our faith is incomplete.  

Our parishes are primarily places of gathering (period).  The most repeated Catholic question is “What time is Mass?”  Gathering is critical to the human hunger for God, to be formed in the way of Christ.  But, “gathering” disconnected from “sending” is something less that then gospel.   There are 2 serious consequences:

  1. parish life becomes static because they lost their focus on the mission.  The Church exists for the world.
  2. to be concerned with itself makes it difficult to be involved in the mission. 

In other words, if we don’t do “sending” our gathering loses its purpose (it becomes turned in on itself.).  Parishes that are no heroic, challenging, are losing people.

Cloud of Witnesses (people who have lived out love and compassion):  The Church has a tradition of sending – many who have been inspired by faith come from every country in the world.  Damien, Mother Teresa, Oscar Romero, Dorothy Day are all one of us.  Many of these have functioned outside the parish.  How did compassion move from the parish?

Where do we go from here? The home parish is the Catholic Social Ministry headquarters.   Look at the broad horizons of our past to see where the saints, prophets and martyrs came from.  Many lived in religious communities that were moved to peacemaking and justice work.  Religious communities had work to do.  Nobody joined Maryknoll because the Mass times were convenient.  The terms of membership were that you would serve. 

Is gathering and sending on the calendar?  If not, why not?    

  • Define parishes by gathering and sending. 
  • Why not divide every parish into teams of 12 to make a commitment. 
  • Why not become catalysts, advocates? 
  • Why not create a local version of Doctors without Borders? 
  • Why not work with at-risk moms? 
  • Why not dedicate half the parish budget for gathering and half for sending?  Half the parish buildings for gathering and half for sending, half the parish energy…?

Gather 12 people who want to be sent and get started.  This is exactly what St. Francis of Assisi did!

Why do this?  God gathers us in prayer, study, Eucharist – to form us so that all people could be safe and loved.


“Gathered and Sent” can be viewed as a 4 part series on YouTube. Click below to watch the presentation: 

Gathered and Sent Part 2

Gathered and Sent Part 3

Gathered and Sent Part 4


Facets of A Vibrant Parish

 Facets of a Vibrant Parish *

How does a parish know how life giving it has become?  How can it see where and how the community can continue to grow into a more holy and dynamic People of God?  These facets of a vibrant parish provide some guidance both for assessment and planning for further growth.

Parish Vision and Mission The parish has articulated a clear vision and mission based on Catholic teaching. Parish members are enthusiastic about their faith.  They engage in ministry as an expression of their baptism.
Welcoming Community Newcomers, strangers, and returning members feel at home.  They speak of the hospitality, support, and joy they experience within the parish community. 
Liturgy The celebration of Eucharist is the summit of the sacramental life of the parish.  The quality of music and preaching enhances “full, active, and conscious” participation in the liturgy. 
Prayer and Spirituality  The daily lives of parishioners reveal that their relationship to God and neighbor is at the core of their prayer and spirituality. 
Evangelization Parishioners look for ways to help people to know God both in word and through the witness of loving action. 
Caring Community  The parish is built on relationships wherein people care about each other, respect differences, and recognize the dignity of all. 
Compassionate Outreach  Parishioners extend ministry to many: the poor, the sick, the vulnerable, the homebound, the troubled, the bereaved, the lonely, and the alienated. 
Fiscal Health  The parish meets its expenses, plans, and gives generously to help people beyond the parish boundaries. 
Lay Ministry  Opportunities to use God-given gifts for others abound.  Youth and children volunteer service for others.  Adults of all ages are involved in service, formation, and building a more just, moral, and peaceful society. 
Lay Pastoral Leadership  Professionally educated ministers enhance the staff with their knowledge and skills.  Their contribution keeps improving and energizing parish ministries. 
Lifelong Formation  There are organized formative opportunities provided for all. The faith formation program is well grounded in Scripture and Tradition. It spans early childhood, growing children, youth, and adult commitment through senior years. 



























* Adapted from the Profile of a Vibrant Parish, National Pastoral Life Center.

Plan-Do-Check and the Key Factors of Successful Implementation

Plan-Do-Check and the Key Factors of Successful Implementation

At “Harvesting Gifts for the Church of Camden” on September 18, Larry Farmer’s presentation explained the plan-do-check process and laid out the key factors for successful implementation of the Pastoral Priorities. His PowerPoint presentation is available by clicking here: [rokdownload menuitem=”61″ downloaditem=”77″ direct_download=”true”]Harvesting Gifts for the Church of Camden: Focusing on the Pastoral Priorities[/rokdownload]

Ground Rules and Good Meetings

Ground Rules and Good Meetings

Larry Farmer has put together two very simple documents that anyone can use for any meeting, whether in your parish or elsewhere. [rokdownload menuitem=”61″ downloaditem=”72″ direct_download=”true“]”Characteristics of Good Meetings”[/rokdownload] will provide you with tips on conducting productive meetings. [rokdownload menuitem=”61″ downloaditem=”73″ direct_download=”true“]”Ground Rules”[/rokdownload] are just that- simple ground rules we can remind ourselves of to contribute positively to a meeting.

Why Parish Toolkits?

Why Parish Toolkits? 


The 4th Key Factor for Successful Implementation of the Pastoral Priorities is the availability of resources that parishes may use to facilitate their pastoral plan for a particular priority.  The diocesan offices, whose ministry is to be of service to parishes, have designed a collection of Parish Toolkits for this purpose.

 How can I access a Parish Toolkit?

Since the diocese began the Harvesting Gifts phase of Pastoral Planning on September 18, 2010, a workplace on the diocesan website has been dedicated to parishes to assist them as they plan their approach to the Pastoral Priorities.  These parish Toolkits may be accessed by clicking onto the name of the Pastoral Priority, such as Priestly Vocations, or other listed resource locations, and by searching for a Parish Toolkit that will address the need.

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