Thought Provokers: The Purpose of the DPC
The thought-provokers below were developed from the DPC’s own handbook for parish councils entitled Decided by the Holy Spirit and by Us.
The Diocesan Pastoral Council Fosters Pastoral Activity
Canon 511 states that the diocesan pastoral council’s purpose is ministry. To state the point more directly, the purpose of the diocesan pastoral council is to do the very hard work of building consensus across the Diocese about the vision of Gospel ministry and its implementation of that vision. (See DHSU, p. 12)
The Bishop and the DPC
Canon 514 clarifies that the DPC advises the Bishop, that he convokes the council and he alone makes public what has been done in the council. The Bishop therefore shapes the council agenda, defines the extent and the limits of council decisions, provides maximum information to the councils so they can offer the best consultation possible, and shares with council members in the movement toward council consensus. (See DHSU, p. 12)
What Council Leadership Ministry Is
Council leadership is a spiritually-based process, a ministry with, for and within the the Diocese. Four major theological themes undergird the mission and exercise of council leadership ministry.
A Ministry of Justice
The personal virtue of justice calls us to establish right order in relationships for the sake of building-up the common good. Diocesan leadership, therefore, is a ministry of justice. The purpose council leadership ministry is to establish and oversee right order in relationships for the sake of building up the effectiveness of the Diocese’s Gospel ministries and its faithful stewardship of the Spirit’s gifts.
A Ministry of Communion
Diocesan leadership assembles as the Body of Christ, all brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ. Properly speaking, council members have no constituency. They represent the whole Body of Christ that is the Diocese, not merely a part of it. The Bishop and DPC gather as a sacrament of ecclesial communion, all bound together by the sinews of being washed clean and incorporated into Christ by baptism, nourished in Eucharist and animated by the Holy Spirit. The assembled pastoral leadership group expresses sacramental communion, all one body in Jesus Christ.
A Ministry of Participation
Bishop and DPC gather as one body, yet each person has a complementary role to play as he or she participates in a common pastoral ministry. The role of each member is to be the whole Diocese’s head, heart, eyes, ears and hands in consultative counsel, and to provide expertise to help pastoral leadership make discerning decisions about the Diocese’s present and future for the sake of the Diocese’s Gospel mission.
A Ministry of Discernment
The decision-making process aims to sort through to what it is that God wants of the Diocese. Discernment decision-making requires that all around the table pray, discuss and sort through to a unanimous conclusion about what it seems God wants. Discernment takes time and can be messy; it includes experimentation, soliciting opinions, and “wait-and see” as the group watches for external confirmation of its decisions, or lack of it. The Bishop and DPC discern under the umbrella question: what does God want of us? The Bishop and DPC rest with a unanimous decision that meets and affirms this standard for everyone around the table: can I live with this decision? See DHSU, p. 13)
The Mission of the Diocesan Pastoral Council
The DPC offers the Bishop consultation regarding:
- the focus, guidance and monitoring of the Diocese’s ministries
- pastoral planning for the Diocese
- any and all matters the Bishop chooses to bring before it. (See DHSU, p. 15)
The DPC’s Focus: Pastoral Planning
“Where there is no vision, the people perish,” says one translation of Proverbs 29, 18. Vision wakes people up, rouses their enthusiasm and focuses their energy into forward movement. The focus task for the Bishop and DPC together is to offer the Diocese vision. Vision requires planning.
Planning is the backbone of DPC ministry, giving contour and thrust to the Diocese’s forward movement, striving to reach consensus about the its identity, image, characteristics and direction. Coordinated pastoral planning across the Diocese is vital to the Diocese’s ongoing life. (See DHSU, p.16)
Planning’s Aim: Conversion and Transformation
Only when the archer focuses the target clearly can the archer strike the bull’s eye. Pastoral planning’s aim is two-fold: personal conversion to Jesus Christ and transformation of the Diocese into the pattern of life Jesus has taught us.
The Diocese in all its facets – worship, religious education, spiritual formation, pastoral care, community building and the ministries of charity, justice and administration – endeavors to call people to know Jesus Christ, to grow in mature adult faith and to love the Church. This endeavor calls people unceasingly to enter into paschal mystery and embrace it as the pattern for interpreting life experience and finding God’s presence in it. To this end, the ministry of the Diocese invites people to profound personal prayer and rich sacred liturgy, to growth in the knowledge and love of Jesus Christ and witness to God’s abundant gifts, to loving outreach to people in need and joyful celebration of people for who God has given them to be, and to a Gospel-based ordering of community relationships. The rationale for every element of the Diocese’s life needs to be inviting the faithful to loving, committed relationship with Jesus Christ and conversion to his way of life.
The Parish: A Transformation Community
Every element of the Diocese’s life teaches the faithful and the world beyond who the faith community believes Jesus to be and who it believes itself to be in response to Jesus’ life and ministry.
Effective pastoral leadership and power distribution finds its motive in the church’s mission, its principles in sound theology, its focusing images across our tradition, its practices in common sense, its energy in people working together in common cause and its ground in the goodness of God revealed to us by the transforming pattern of life Jesus has shown us.
Let Us Be What We Preach!
The mission of the Diocese is to invite people of all ages and walks of life into an experience of the life-changing power of a personal encounter with Jesus Christ. Pastoral planning’s aim is to shape how the faith community embraces transformation into Jesus Christ as a way of life. No other aim is worthy of the effort. The critical question planning asks Bishop and DPC together, therefore, is this: what does God want our life as a Diocese to teach about the identity, image, direction and accomplishment of Jesus Christ and the life he offers? (See DHSU, p. 18)