WelCom News
A newspaper for the Wellington and Palmerston North Catholic Dioceses

Pastoral area teams and councils roles and responsibilities

At a meeting on 3 May the priests, lay pastoral leaders, chairs of parish councils and finance committees from the Wellington and Hutt Valley areas met with Archbishop John Dew to unravel and explain the next step in clarifying pastoral area teams and pastoral area councils. Here is a summary of the discussion.

What is a Pastoral Area Council?

A pastoral area council (PAC) functions within the pastoral area in much the same way as the parish pastoral council works in a parish.

Who will make up the Pastoral Area Council?

The PAC will consist of representatives of each of the parishes within the pastoral area. These would normally be the chair of the parish council and one or two other members. The pastoral team, that is, the priest(s) and lay pastoral leader(s) are also part of the PAC.

What is the function of the Pastoral Area Council?

The establishment of formal cooperating structures is essential to enable parishes in a pastoral area to work together in equity and harmony.

The PAC will meet to

• Get to know each other and learn to appreciate each other’s gifts

• Increase their understanding of communio and collaborative ministry

• Share their parishes’ pastoral plans and activities

• Draft a PAC pastoral plan

• Discuss how best joint activities can be initiated

PACs are first and foremost about planning, direction-setting, policy formulating and evaluating: in this they attend to the big picture. It is crucial to remember that PACs exist in order for parishes to better collaborate. The PAC does not have a say over parish councils: it is in the parish council that parish plans are prepared; it is in the PAC where those plans are discussed from an area perspective and brought together so that parishes work in collaboration, and will coordinate their work. In other words the area pastoral plan, flows out of, and links back to the parish pastoral plans. It is not separate from them. Collaboration is the desired goal, but if a resolution cannot be reached, the parish council will have the final say in parish matters. Even so, it is taken for granted that no parish council would want to act contrary to the common good of all the parishes in its pastoral area.

The PAC will advertise vacant positions in the Catholic media when a lay pastoral leader is to be appointed. Model copies are held in the office of the archdiocesan general manager.

A model job description, to assist PACs, is also held in the office of the general manager.

Members of the PAC will be on the appointments committee when a prospective lay pastoral leader is interviewed. This appointments committee will also have member(s) from the archdiocese, representing the archbishop.

How often will a Pastoral Area Council meet?

It is envisaged that the PAC will meet according to need. This may be between three and five times a year.

What is the Pastoral Area Team and who does it consist of?

The pastoral area team (PAT) consists of the priest(s) in the pastoral area and the lay pastoral leader(s).

The PAC:

• plans

• sets direction and

• formulates policy

The PAT:

• administers the parish

• provides the sacraments, and

• leads and provides the pastoral care.

The PAT members are members of the PAC and attend its meetings.

The team has the day-to-day responsibility for the whole area. Each member of the PAT will have a prime responsibility for pastoral care and the administration of a parish. These are matters that remain at the heart of every parish and need to be attended to within the parish.

They will also plan together with their parish councils and PAC what ministries they can best share collaboratively with members of the pastoral area. This will vary according to the pastoral area.

For example, training of parents and catechists for the sacraments of reconciliation and eucharist, the RCIA, youth ministry, marriage preparation, social justice outreach, community activities may be undertaken as a joint collaborative venture.

In whatever way the work will be arranged, key to the flourishing of a pastoral area, is cooperation and consultation within the PAT and the PAC.

What is the relationship between the Pastoral Area Team and the Pastoral Area Council?

The relationship between the PAT and the PAC is similar to that of the parish leadership and the parish council. The PAC will formulate a pastoral area plan that will be designed by the collaborating parishes in the pastoral area.

The system of PACs and PATs is to forge a new vibrancy that will allow parishes to flourish in a new mode of close collaboration in the sharing of mutual and differing gifts.

Who is the Moderator and what is his role?

The moderator is, by canon law, prescribed to be an ordained priest appointed by the archbishop. The moderator in the team has the canonical responsibility for the pastoral area and shares in the tasks of the team.

In canon law the relationship of the moderator and his co-workers, be they priests or lay pastoral leaders, is described as ‘directing’. In practice it is envisaged that the moderator and his co-workers operate as a team, and that they are accountable to one another as well as to the archbishop (who appoints them).

How will parishes plan Mass times and the provision of other sacramental ministries when there will not be as many clergy available?

Within each pastoral area, a priest or priests will be appointed as the ‘sacramental minister’. This priest will normally be one of those in the pastoral area.

Where there is a lay pastoral leader, the PAT and PAC will work with the parish membership to discover how best to make the Eucharist available to all parishes in the pastoral area. This will necessitate the changing of some of the Mass times in several of the parishes. This will need to be done with the utmost concern for the sensitivities of the parishioners. The permission of the archbishop must be sought in order to change a Mass time.

The sacraments of confirmation, reconciliation and anointing will also be planned by the PAT.

The archbishop may give permission for the lay pastoral leader to administer the other sacraments in accordance with decrees from Rome.

Funding, how will this be resolved? What processes are being set in place?

The initial position regarding funding was that parishes/pastoral areas would be primarily responsible for meeting the costs of lay pastoral leaders and there would be a small central fund available to help poorer parishes meet some of their costs.

Following recent deliberations, there is a feeling that a more equitable approach would be to spread the costs of lay pastoral leaders over all parishes rather than imposing the burden on those who happen to have the need for one.

A major consideration in determining the funding requirements is of course the number of lay pastoral leaders that we will need in the coming years. Some work has been done to estimate this but it needs to be refined considerably before a credible figure emerges. It should be borne in mind that, even though a parish may be without a resident priest, the first collection belongs to the Clergy Trust Fund and is not available to meet the salaries of lay pastoral leaders.

The lay pastoral leader fund currently stands at approximately $350,000 and is being added to by about $45,000 per annum. The cost of one full-time lay pastoral leader is approximately equal to the annual income. A replacement of known retiring priests over the next few years, on a one-for-one basis would quickly eliminate the current balance of the fund.