Transition from Parish Council to Parish Pastoral Council
My personal perspective by Dr Jeffrey Soon
I was elected as Parish pastoral council chairman at the end of 1999. Little did I know what I was getting into. The Jubilee Year 2000 would begin on Christmas day 25th December 1999 and the diocese had also taken the decision that the Parish Councils would now become Pastoral Councils . As I started the term I realize that the parish and previous Council had not prepared in any way for these two important situations. On top of that, the parish was almost literally without pastoral leadership because the incoming Rector Fr Cosmas Lee had just arrived in Sacred Heart and was just getting warmed up in his old parish again.
1st Discernment Weekend
Because there were no guidelines available as to what to do as Pastoral Council, Fr Cosmas and all the newly elected councilors felt strongly the need to seek the Lord for direction. Because of this, the Rector , the priests and all of the Pastoral Council members went to Bundu Tuhan in January 2000 to have our first discernment weekend. This was specially to seek the Lord for direction on how to be a Pastoral Council. By the leading of the Holy Spirit, that first discernment weekend gave us the following guidelines, which I believe was really a work of the Lord.
Because these guidelines have been so instrumental in helping the parish council shift to become a pastoral council, I think it is important enough to reproduce them in part here;
Sacred Heart Cathedral Pastoral Council: Role, Functions , Tasks
A communion of leaders working in close collaboration with the Pastor in leading the parish community to realize the vision of the diocese
- To discern the needs of the parish and consider practical solutions
- To foster a greater sense of belonging in the parish, thereby enhancing the climate of love and unity
- To fully support all parish groups and the whole community by motivating, guiding, inspiring and encouraging them
- To coordinate more closely the activities of all parish groups in clear view of the vision and mission of the diocese
- To endeavor to formulate action plans to meet the needs of the parish, particularly in renewal and faith formation programs in view of the vision the diocese
Further Discernment Weekends
Because it was such a new situation to be a pastoral council, it was felt that it was not well understood yet. As such the parish went through the following discernment weekends:
February 2001 at Beringgis Resort: a review on the attainment of the role and functions as Pastoral Councilors, reflection of the Jubilee Year, challenges encountered and practical solutions proposed, especially in the process of achieving greater communion in the parish
April 2001 at Bundu Tuhan with the parish leaders: where the need for greater communion was called for and a consensus statement was formed. This consensus statement is very important because it has helped to shape the direction of the pastoral task that the parish subsequently took.. As such I will mention it here:
Consensus Statement from April 2001 discernment weekend
Bearing in mind the special needs of our youth, neophytes and the parishioners at large.
We, the parish leaders belonging to one family in Christ empowered by the Holy Spirit, united in diversity , commit ourselves to foster greater communion among clergies, parish groups and parishioners , through
Continuous personal conversion
A life of prayer nourished by the sacraments
Living the Word of God guided by the church
Deepening our knowledge of the truth of our faith
Growing in love, humility and sensitivity to the needs of others
Reconciliation and mutual respect for each other’s differences
Sharing our resources and working closely together in harmony towards the vision and mission of the diocese
The impact of it all!!
As I reflect on these early few discernment weekends , I can see that they have contributed in major ways to shape how the parish had moved from then on Because we kept in mind the special needs of our youth , neophytes and parishioners at large, we eventually started the various programs for youth in the parish as such Life Teen and Life Line Ministries . Our decision to have a full time Parish Youth Pastoral Coordinator also came from this .We started the group for the neophytes called SGNB
The resolution to foster greater communion among clergies, parish groups and parishioners would eventually result in the formation of the Coordinating Committee.
All these have helped the parish community move to realize the vision and mission of the diocese.
Other pastoral decisions :
From our understanding of what it means to be pastoral , the Rector together with the members of the Pastoral Council subsequently went on to do the following :
- Formulate policies for the use of the Parish Centre:
- Establish the Tender Committee
- Establish the Finance Committee
- Establish the Human and Resource Management Committee
- Employ a full time Office General Manager
Perhaps the parishioners at large are unaware of the pastoral reasons for some of the above. I will now mention some of the key reasons for them:
Policies for use of the Parish Centre: [ I reproduce only a small part of the policies here]
The basic purpose of the Centre is to promote parish communion for the Kingdom of God. As such the priority for activities shall generally be as follows
A. Parish level activities organized by the Parish whose purpose is for the greater communion of the parish groups and the common good of the parish
B. Parish groups organized activities for the greater communion of the parish groups and the common good of the parish’
C. Parish groups organized activities for its own members
D. Other needs
The allocation of rooms, spaces and facilities of the Centre is made in relation to actual needs of a given activity . Other considerations are secondary [ eg ability to pay]
The rooms, spaces and facilities in the Centre are meant for the benefit of all in the parish. Together with this privilege comes the responsibility for the continued upkeep of the Centre . In a general way this responsibility belongs to all parish groups and individuals in the parish. In a specific way, this responsibility belongs to every parish group and individual each time they use the Centre.
The Office manager always refers to these policies whenever any difficulties arise eg request for use of same room on same date and time, or groups who do not the ability to pay but require to use the room etc
These guidelines have helped the parish very much to be pastoral in its approach to help everyone benefit from the use of the centre.
Establishment of the Tender and Finance Committees:
These committees were established so that all financial matters were separated from the Pastoral Council itself so that there would be no conflict of interest and there would be transparency and accountability .Proper use of money is very pastoral !
Establishment of the Human and Resource Management Committee
This committee was asked to look into the working conditions and salary structures of the staff employed by Sacred Heart. This was to ensure that they would be employed and receive salaries, which would be at least equal if not better than the conditions of employment outside. If we cannot care for our staff how can we be pastoral for the whole parish community?
Employment of the full time Office Manager
This was done so that the Rector would be freed of the necessary day to day supervision of the office staff. This is to enable him to concentrate his time and focus on pastoral matters of the parish
These committees now under the preview of the Finance and Property Council
These committees now come under the preview of the Finance and Property Council which has been newly formed. I am sure the new Council would further improve upon all the terms of reference for each committee and utilize such committees whenever the need arises..
From 2004 onwards
From 2004 onwards I was no longer the Parish Pastoral Council chairman , but the same process continued . The Rector and parish went on to identify the following
A. 3 top pastoral needs in the parish [ through a Parish level survey conducted in Sacred Heart Cathedral , Church of Mary Immaculate and St Simon in 2007}
The following were the 3 top pastoral needs identified
- Internet pornography among the young
- Internet pornography among married men
B. The 3 top Parish Pastoral Priorities ; (These were consensually identified and derived from Parish Discernment Weekend 2006 from 30th August to 2nd September)
- Family life
- Catholic Faith Formation
- Parishioners at large
These 3 top pastoral priorities were identified because it was realized that there must always be a focus in our pastoral approach and also that there is limitation of resource and time and money
Because these have been identified, the Council has Committees which are ongoing to look into these 3 issues : The Family Issues Committee , Catholic Faith Formation Committee and The Parish Family Pastoral Network [ PFPN ]
We are always aware of the 3 top pastoral needs [ internet pornography and dadah ] in the parish. Each time we plan for anything, these 3 needs form the background of our approach.
How has our parish change since?
Sacred Heart parish has always been and will continue to be a vibrant community alive in the Holy Spirit. Sometimes I even believe the parish will carry on, even if there is no Rector or Pastoral Council.
But since the Council has become pastoral, I noticed that one of the biggest change in the parish has been that the groups are now more used to working together for the common good and are all trying to move together to realize the vision and mission of the diocese.
A very positive development in the parish is the emergence of a new way of being church by the formation of Basic Christian Communities where we live : at the taman levels [ through the PFPN}
The parishioners also expect the parish to be focused on pastoral issues affecting our lives. In many ways the parish has stepped up its response and have tried our best given our many limitations to respond to these needs.
The parishioners also expect increased transparency and accountability in money matters, and the parish has taken the right steps through the formation of the relevant committees.
My reflections and hope for the future
These were the crucial first steps that the Rector and Pastoral Council took in the early years to help the parish to move pastorally . It had taken lots of hard work, sacrifices, prayers, late night and early morning meetings to achieve so much. . Many people have contributed in so many ways to help achieve this, that I would not mention anyone by name. Some have already gone to meet the Lord while many are still continuing the good work.
Most of the structures for the parish to move forward in the Spirit are already in place . What is needed is for each one of us , from the Rector down to every parishioner in the parish , to be renewed daily in the Holy Spirit , so that we can respond to what the Spirit wants of each one of us. We can do all the planning but ultimately God himself is the One who decides.
I hope that future generations of Sacred Heart Councilors and parishioners would remember these steps and don’t go through the process of reinventing the wheel every time we have a change of new leaders.
I thank God for the opportunity that I had been given to help the parish in this incredible shift in focus to be pastoral.
May His name be praised forever.
BY DR JEFFREY SOON MIN TET
PARISH PASTORAL COUNCIL CHAIRMAN [ 2000 to 2003 ]