The Parish Pastoral Council is an advisory and consultative body for the Pastor. Its purpose is to promte community, to be a sign and witness of unity, and to assist the pastor in pastoral planning. The council performs its function of pastoral planning by listening to the parish community and formulating broad priorities, goals and policies which articulate and foster the mission of the parish.
-From “Guidelines for Parish Pastoral Councils”, Diocese of Norwich
The Pastoral Council welcomes your comments and input.
St. Bernard Pastoral Council Report to the Parish:
Last year, Father Rick was selected by Bishop Cote, along with a small group of other Pastors in the Norwich Diocese, to attend a weekly course titled:”Good Leaders, Good Shepherds”.
The purpose of this course was for Pastors to learn a new long-term process for leading their parishes in today’s world. The “Good Leaders, Good Shepherds” program is based on re-visioning and re-chartering existing parish structures. In January, Father Rick re-chartered the Pastoral Council to learn this new process and address the current and future needs of our parish. The first step in this process was for us to develop our purpose. The Pastoral Council’s purpose is to provide the environment and opportunity for all parishioners to use their time and talent in building-up a Christ-centered, supportive, and compassionate, Catholic community.
Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and Father Rick’s leadership, The Pastoral Council began learning how to use this new and rigorous process by identifying the current strengths and challenges of our parish.
The following is a brief outline of our strengths and challenges followed by the four major areas of parish life we will address in the coming year:
What are our strengths?
- We are a community of strong traditions with a sense of pride in our historic parish.
- We take pride in our rich Catholic liturgy with reverence for the Eucharist and the Word of God.
- We are proud of and support our own parish school preschool.
- We are a welcoming community with a strong sense of family, belonging, and caring for others.
- We have a wide range of God-given talents and a strong desire to share these talents in our parish life.
- We have a strong desire to grow in faith.
What are our challenges?
We are a large community of almost 2,000 registered households. We must ask ourselves:
- Do we provide adequate and ongoing programs for adult Catholic faith formation?
- Do we provide nurturing and spiritual growth for small Christian communities?
- Do we provide good opportunities for fellowship, especially for new and younger families?
- Do we reach out effectively to inactive Catholics and non-Catholics interested in learning about our Catholic community?
- Do we adequately identify and use the skills of our parishioners to build up the Body of Christ?
- Do we communicate effectively to respond to the needs of our parish?
Our answers to these questions identified that we had many opportunities for improvement. Our next step was to identify Key Responsibility Areas to focus on in the coming year which support our strengths and address our challenges.
In the coming months, we will focus on four areas:
Any vibrant community needs effective and efficient communication. A survey was recently sent to all committee chairpersons and parish ministries to determine how they communicate and what ideas they have to improve communication. We are currently evaluating various alternatives for improving our parish website and examining how other parishes employ technology to communicate more effectively. Our goal is to promote open communication so that all parish ministries can share ideas and dreams allowing all parishioners to participate fully in parish life.
Second: Adult Faith Formation.
We will provide opportunities and develop ongoing programs to establish a solid Catholic foundation and enkindle a passion for our Living Faith for adults. We see this as a very critical challenge. Many of us have experienced our children or friends leaving the Church or have been challenged by others who do not understand our Catholic faith. The basic teachings of our faith, such as the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist or the need for Reconciliation are often not clearly understood. To meet this challenge, starting November 2nd and continuing on the first Sunday afternoon of each month, we will offer an ongoing Adult Education series called “We are Catholic”. We will also offer a comprehensive Catholic Bible Study program after Christmas, provide a parish retreat opportunity by next fall, and we will continue to sponsor our annual Lenten Parish Mission.
We will continue our outreach programs and activities in the parish and our community to fulfill Christ’s commission to love and serve one another. We will also provide more opportunities for effective social interaction among parishioners and continue to maintain Ecumenical and Interfaith programs with other churches, synagogues and religions in our civic community.
Fourth: Gifts and Talents
As parishioners, we are all encouraged to use our time and talent in building up the Body of Christ to create a vibrant Catholic parish. To meet this goal, we will establish a process to identify and share our gifts and talents with each other. This process will include both use of the internet through an enhanced parish website as well as traditional methods for those without internet access. We want everyone to feel included and to know that there is a place for you and the gifts you offer.
In conclusion, we believe this new process of re-visioning parish life introduced by Father Rick will not only provide for new and exciting opportunities for greater spiritual growth and a more dynamic Catholic community, but it will also establish a strong long-term process of continual improvement in all aspects of our parish life.