So you have been appointed to the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council. Does this mean you'll be leaving St. Agnes? Will you be working in Braintree now? Is this a full time job? What is the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council? These are but a few of the questions my fellow parishioners asked after Mass on the Sunday that my appointment to the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council was announced in our parish. The answers to the first three questions are no, no, and no.
So what is the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council? The Archdiocesan Pastoral Council is one of the groups that Cardinal Seán O'Malley consults on a regular basis regarding issues of pastoral concern. Cardinal Seán usually meets with the APC five times per year.
Diocesan Pastoral Councils have their origins in the Second Vatican Council. In "Christus Dominus" we read:
"It is greatly desired that in each diocese a pastoral commission will be established over which the diocesan bishop himself will preside and in which specially chosen clergy, religious and lay people will participate. The function of this council will be to investigate and weigh matters which bear on pastoral activity and to formulate practical conclusions regarding them." (Christus Dominus 27)
The Archdiocesan Pastoral Council consists of both appointed and ex-officio members. the ex-officio members are the moderator of the curia and the moderator of the presbyteral council, Msgr. Dennis Sheehan. Each of the 20 vicariates has two representatives. Vicariate representatives are appointed by Cardinal Seán after consultation with the pastors in each vicariate. There are also two pastors, two deacons and three religious. Sister Marian Batho, CSJ is the coordinator of the APC. Members are appointed for a rotating four year term and may be re-appointed to a second term. As a result, the APC usually welcomes 10 new members each year.
The purposes of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council are to:
-- Investigate, ponder, propose practical conclusions regarding pastoral works under the authority of the bishop
-- Serve as a forum for discussion of issues of pastoral significance
-- Be a link of communication between the archbishop and the faithful of the Archdiocese of Boston
-- Be a representative of the unity between the archbishop and the clergy, religious and lay faithful of the Archdiocese of Boston.
Cardinal Seán comments: "I count on the advice and counsel of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council for issues of pastoral concern. I look forward to the discussions at the APC meetings. There is tremendous respect among the members. I am inspired by their commitment and dedication to the Church."
In this era of Disciples in Mission, communication around the archdiocese is more critical than ever. It is especially important now that the people of the archdiocese have a clear sense of Cardinal Seán's vision for the New Evangelization, and that Cardinal Seán hears the hopes and concerns of the people of the parishes. The Archdiocesan Pastoral Council plays an important role in that communication.
The key to Disciples in Mission is the local pastoral plans, which the collaboratives will develop with their several parishes, to give substance, order, creativity, depth, transparency, and accountability to their evangelizing efforts. Cardinal Seán has asked the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council to play a central role in the formation and approval of these local plans.
In order to serve as a link for communication and a vehicle of unity, vicariate representatives are asked to visit the parish pastoral councils within their vicariate at least once a year. This visit provides the opportunity to share the pastoral concerns that are under discussion in the APC and to listen to response from the perspective of parishioners.
An item on the agenda at every other meeting is "What do I need to hear?" Each member of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council has the opportunity to speak directly to Cardinal Seán about issues of pastoral concern that he or she has heard while visiting parishes.
Quoting an Archdiocesan Pastoral Council member: "I have found my time on the APC to be spiritually and personally rewarding. My trust and confidence in the leadership of the archdiocese has been strengthened. This has allowed me to do what I believe to be one of the primary purposes of the APC -- to communicate to the laity within our vicariate and to confidently communicate that we are one Church...."
Michael Gallagher is a member of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council and a parishioner of St. Agnes in Arlington.