Key Paragraphs for Pastoral Planning

With these five paragraphs the dynamics of pastoral planning have changed, or more specifically been clarified, within the Diocese of Charlotte:

Pope John Paul II with Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta greet a man in 1986 at the Home For the Dying in Calcutta,India. (CNS photo/Artuo Mari)
Pope John Paul II with Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta greet a man in 1986 at the Home For the Dying in Calcutta,India. (CNS photo/Artuo Mari)

5. Pastoral councils and commissions need to understand the true meaning of “parish.” Within canon law we know: “As a general rule a parish is to be territorial, that it embraces all the Christian faithful within a certain territory….1” In addition, the canons stipulate that the pastor’s solicitude extends to all those living in the territory of the parish, through works of social justice,2 and sharing the message of the gospel.3

6. But our late Holy Father, John Paul II reminds the pastor, and his pastoral council, that the care of souls, extends to every person living in the territory of the parish. He wrote:

It is necessary that in light of faith all rediscover the true meaning of the parish, that is, the place where the very ‘mystery’ of the Church is present and at work, even if at times it is lacking persons and means, even if at other times it might be scattered over vast territories or almost not to be found in crowded and chaotic modern sections of cities. The parish is not principally a structure, a territory, or a building, but rather, “the family of God, a fellowship afire with a unifying spirit,” a “familial and welcoming home,” the “community of the faithful. Plainly and simply, the parish is founded on a theological reality because it is a Eucharistic community.4

Understanding the Eucharistic and territorial nature of parish is often an epiphany for council and commission members who, beforehand, had difficulty coming up with goals and focusing their efforts. …

16. … “With its universal and indispensable provisions, the program of the Gospel must continue to take root, as it has always done, in the life of the Church everywhere. It is in the local churches that the specific features of a detailed pastoral plan can be identified — goals and methods, formation and enrichment of the people involved, the search for the necessary resources — which will enable the proclamation of Christ to reach people, mold communities, and have a deep and incisive influence in bringing Gospel values to bear in society and culture.”1

17. Each parish faces a multitude of issues over the next 20 years. Our late Holy Father, Blesseed John Paul II, inChristifideles Laici calls to the attention of the entire Church issues which affect the entire community, namely:

  • the increase of religious indifference and secularism;
  • the violations of the dignity of the human person; and
  • the increasing number of conflicts in the world.2

18. In addition to these three, the need to evangelize a Catholic population that is currently multi-lingual and bring it together as a common community is a task that will not be accomplished by any single group. It is important that the pastor have at his disposal a group of individuals knowledgeable in the life of the Church but also familiar with the issues facing the parish that he may turn to for advice and counsel. It is also important that planning activities on the parish level be coordinated in such a manner that the Pastoral plan of the Diocese be implemented at both the local and diocesan level.

In just a few short paragraphs, the Holy Father and the Bishop have made clear what pastoral council should include in a pastoral plan and what needs to addressed in each plan. It is not expected, nor is it within the ability, of any one parish to solve the issues outlined. It is only required that the parish make a good faith effort to address them and in good conscious with proper discernment decide what should be done. Obviously, these few paragraphs do not address the breath of the whole document. They should read the new guidelines. The role and function of the Administration Commission is much greater and more useful than in the original formation, particularly in its role of facilities inventories and property management.

1Canon 518

2Canon 528 §1

3Canons 528 §1 and 771 §2

4Christifideles Laici (The Participation of the Lay Faithful in the Life of the Church as Communion), 26.2

1Novo millennio ineunte (January 6, 2001). No. 29.

2Christifideles Laici, Nos. 4-6.