Purpose of the section
To provide a resource for developing a ‘collaborative pastoral model of practice’ for the parishes of the Archdiocese.
The goal of the framework is to structure ways the parish can contribute to the life and mission of the Church. The Parish Pastoral Council needs to connect with the risen Spirit of Christ throughout the planning process. Prayer and faith sharing help the Parish Pastoral Council to discern the will of God for the parish. In this, they together continue the life and mission of Jesus Christ.
Imbued with prayer, faith sharing and reflection, a collaborative pastoral model can be an effective process for the renewal of parishes and of the whole Archdiocese.
The Sacred Scriptures use the image of the vine in various ways. In a particular case, the vine serves to express the Mystery of the People of God. From this perspective, which emphasises the Church’s internal nature, the lay faithful are seen not simply as labourers who work in the vineyard, but as themselves being a part of the vineyard. Jesus says, ‘I am the vine, you are the branches’ (John 15:5).
Christifideles Laici (On the Vocation and Mission of the Lay Faithful in the Church and in the World) 8.
The Gospel witness of the Archdiocese lies primarily in the quality of the Christian lives of its parish communities. The Archdiocese is a body made up of many Christian communities, which, together with the Archbishop’s agencies and organisations, are called to work collaboratively to build an Archdiocese which is Christ-centred and mission–orientated, vibrant, revitalised, faithful, welcoming, inclusive and forward thinking.
The Parish Pastoral Council is well placed to use a collaborative pastoral model to look not only within the parish but also beyond to other parishes, diocesan agencies and organisations, as well as service groups in the local community, for the support and expertise needed to grow the parish and for its contribution to the Archdiocese.
A Pastoral Collaborative Model for Archdiocesan and Parish Renewal
Archdiocesan renewal calls us into a collaborative process of discernment to examine what the Holy Spirit is asking of us. It will also challenge past ways of thinking and behaving. In particular, it will challenge parishes to reconsider the role of Councils and focus more on their pastoral responsibilities and less on the maintenance functions of a parish. It will make more implicit the roles and activities of the Parish Pastoral and Finance Councils.
Parish Pastoral Councils will be asked to discern what it is to be pastoral and the specific pastoral needs of its parish community. In this way, Archdiocesan renewal will call for a significant shift in thinking and commitment with an emphasis on spiritual formation and pastoral care – especially for those on the spiritual, emotional and physical margins.
What is the VISION for parish and Archdiocesan renewal?
The model for parish and Archdiocesan renewal is driven by the vision of the Archdiocesan Plan 2016-2021. It reflects the mission of the Archdiocese through the efforts of parishes working together to build an Archdiocese in which all people recognise their mission to live the Gospel by walking together in the footsteps of the Good Shepherd.
What is the GUIDING PRINCIPLE which gives life to the vision?
The guiding principle which is foundational to the model for parish and Archdiocesan renewal is collaborative pastoral practice.
What is the teaching of the Church which underpins the guiding principle?
- Catholic social teaching – The permanent principles of the Church’s social doctrine constitute the very heart of Catholic social teaching. These are the principles of the dignity of the human person, which has already been dealt with in the preceding chapter, and which is the foundation of all the other principles and content of the Church’s social doctrine; the common good; subsidiarity; and solidarity.
- Discernment – to be guided by the Holy Spirit is to discover the voice of God within
- Missionary discipleship – everyone baptised is called to bring the message of the Gospel to all in the world in word and action
- Formation – to grow in maturity and understanding of the faith so that one is able to participate more fully in Christ’s mission
- Servant leadership – the call, centred in Christ’s example at the Last Supper, to serve one another without boundaries
-  – Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. Compendium of The Social Doctrine of the Church to His Holiness Pope John Paul II. Master of Social Doctrine and Evangelical Witness to Justice and Peace. March 2005. (160).
The principle of a collaborative pastoral practice is meaningful engagement with others. It promotes the working together of parishes and Archdiocesan agencies and organisations, using their combined gifts and talents to achieve shared goals. This collaboration, with its sharing of resources, enables the Archdiocese to function more efficiently and effectively.
Collaborative pastoral practice is core to renewal as it encourages a change of mindset, a shift of perspective. A collaborative pastoral practice model asks individuals to reflect not only on ‘What do I need to do in my personal life to be a good Christian? What does my parish need to do?’; it is a thinking that is immersed in the parish community that embraces and is embraced by the whole Archdiocese.
A member of the lay faithful ‘can never remain in isolation from the community, but must live in a continual interaction with others… They are treasures that complement one another for the good of all… (CL 20)
While the first step might be to collaborate with the ministries within one’s own parish in working towards building a stronger, more vibrant parish, a collaborative pastoral practice calls parishes to look beyond their boundary to other parishes and groups within the Archdiocese that can support, build and help sustain the whole life of the Archdiocese, of which they are an integral part. Parishes have a contribution to make to the Archdiocese and the Archdiocese to the parishes.
Collaborative pastoral practice does not mean that all parishes work on the one common project/activity across the Archdiocese. This model is much more organic in nature, allowing each parish to identify their unique project/activity that is necessary for the growth of their parish and then calls for each parish to seek others who may be on the same journey or have wisdom to offer for support. Parishes working together with each other and with other agencies and groups, gives momentum to a collaborative effort all working together to achieve the same outcome, which is, walking together in the footsteps of the Good Shepherd.
Since the Church’s task in our day is so great its accomplishment cannot be left to the parish alone… (therefore) For the renewal of parishes and for a better assurance of their effectiveness in work, various forms of cooperation even on the institutional level ought to be fostered among diverse parishes in the same area (Code of Canon Law 26).
The key to collaborative pastoral practice is defined briefly as collaboration for discernment. At the heart of the model is prayerful discernment by communities to be open to the Holy Spirit in guiding them to work together as one community to explore and discover what it is that God wants them to be doing. It calls us to ask, ‘What is God asking of this community in building up the mission of Jesus and how can this community respond with other communities to build and strengthen the larger faith community, the Archdiocese’?
Discernment also needs to take into account what is good practice, financially viable, and recognition of the pressing needs of the community and Archdiocese. However, it is more than these factors which are part of a prayerful journey to discover what God wants us to be doing inside our parish, together with other parishes and groups within the Archdiocese. The final decision is discerning what God wants us to do.
If we are truly immersed in the mission and ministry of Christ, then we are, by necessity, seeking to do God’s will, to fulfill God’s plans.
The Parish is a community of faith headed by a Parish Priest who is appointed by the bishop of the diocese and accountable to him. It has its own entity, it has rights and obligations and a certain degree of autonomy. The Parish, however, is not a totally independent entity; rather it is part of a vine that is the diocese, which in union with the universal Church continues the life and mission of Jesus in the world.
Constitution for Parish Pastoral Councils (2018)
While a parish is an entity within itself, it also belongs to a larger faith community of a diocese/Archdiocese and, indeed, of the universal Church. In building an Archdiocese which is Christ-centred and mission–orientated, vibrant, revitalised, faithful, welcoming, inclusive and forward thinking, all ‘arms’ of the Archdiocese, all parishes, need to contribute in their own unique way and in collaboration across the Archdiocese. The collaborative effort of all within the Archdiocese will help to build, strengthen and sustain an Archdiocese in which all contribute to the ongoing mission of Jesus as one faith community.
This collaboration across the Archdiocese will strengthen and enhance the quality of pastoral programs both within the parish and Archdiocese as a whole. On a more practical note, it will avoid unnecessary duplication of services, serve unmet needs and model good stewardship and use of financial resources.Pastoral activities within the Archdiocese become stronger because wisdom and knowledge are shared, giving a more holistic approach in carrying out the mission of the wider Church. Some examples of a collaborative effort of parishes across the Archdiocese could include the hiring of a youth leader to work for a cluster of parishes (a hub), faith formation activities being shared across parishes, within a hub, to widen the formation on offer, or collectively setting up a food bank service for the neighbourhood.
What is the PROCESS for renewal using collaborative pastoral practice?
Parishes conscious of belonging to the Archdiocese, conscious that parishes are neighbours to each other linked and working together in hubs, will then share the common vision of the Archdiocese. They will therefore encourage and assist each other in responding to this vision.
Step 1 Each parish looks within and answers such questions as:
- How are we as a parish ‘walking together’?
- What can we do within our parish to make this happen and become a more vital parish?
- What can we do as a parish to ‘walk together’ with others outside our parish?
The Unique Response of the Parish
Step 2 Each parish looks outside parish boundaries.
Parishes then look for a shared response to walking together among another/other parish/es, agencies and organisations within the Archdiocese (create hubs).
Collaborative pastoral practice invites each parish community to reflect on the vision for an Archdiocesan Pastoral Plan and prayerfully discern what it is God is calling the parish to undertake. In this discernment process, the parish may identify a number of options it needs to grow/be built upon. These options are then prioritised and the parish assesses how it will respond to these options. This is the ‘Unique Response’ of the parish.
Each parish, having reflected on the vision of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Plan through prayerful reflection and discernment with ministries within the parish, seeks the support and wisdom of other parishes, especially those that are geographically close to it which may have also identified the same or similar unique response. These parishes form a cluster called a hub. A hub (or indeed, hubs) work together through a process of prayerful discernment and reflection on how each can support the other/s to respond to God’s call for their parishes and contributing to the vision of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Plan.
Parishes that are geographically close to each other may also decide to discern together. They may hold combined meetings of their Parish Pastoral Councils. They could make their parishioners aware that this group of neighbouring parishes is entering into a time of common discernment and there is a need for these parishes to pray for each other.
We discover who we are, in community.
In using collaborative pastoral practice for the renewal of the life of parishes and Archdiocese, the desired outcome is that all parishes work as one within the Archdiocese to carry forth the mission of the Church.
How we will know that this collaborative endeavour is bearing fruit?
An indication that the collaborative endeavour is bearing fruit is when the following eight measures are evident in the life of the parish and, indeed, in the life of the Archdiocese.
- Parishioners recognise their mission (Planning)
- Parishioners embrace discernment of their own personal response and contribution to the life and mission of their parish
- Faith is nurtured (Spirituality and Faith Formation)
- Liturgy inspires active participation and offers an experience of God (Liturgy)
- Members are recognised as gifted and called forth to use their gifts (Community Building)
- All who enter experience welcome and hospitality (Welcoming and Hospitable)
- Outreach to the body of Christ is practised (Outreach
- Baptism’s vocational call is cultivated (Evangelisation)
- Collegial/servant leadership is practised (Leadership)
The Parish Pastoral Council is the primary parish structure for establishing and sustaining a Christ-centred, faithful, vibrant, welcoming, inclusive and mission-orientated parish which works collaboratively with other parishes, diocesan agencies and organisations to build an Archdiocese in which all people recognise their mission to live the Gospel.
To this end, let us pray that, as an Archdiocese, we can together walk faithfully in the footsteps of the Good Shepherd.
-  – Diocese of Scranton (2011). Diocese of Scranton. Servant Leadership Parish Pastoral Council Guidelines and Resources. [Retrieved May 2017]. (p.46).