Parish pastoral planning is a participative, consultative and prayerful process through which a parish identifies itself as a particular faith community with a developed mission statement, making assessments of the values of its current life, and anticipating possibilities for the future direction of the parish. The Pastoral Council and parishioners provide consultation and thoughtful advice to the pastor through pastoral planning by considering three key questions: Who are we as a parish? What are we called to do? What is the best way of going about this?
“Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.” (Matt 16:15) Clergy, religious, laity – we are all called to fully participate in the mission and life of the Church.
Depending on the circumstances of the time, from its earliest days, the Church has responded to this call to mission in various ways. In our current time, the opportunities and challenges with which we are faced are considerable, causing our planning and reflection to be all the more critical because:
“The parish is for most Catholics the single most important part of the Church. This is where for them the mission of Christ continues. This is where they publicly express their faith, joining with others to give proof of their communion with God and with one another… It is in the parish that the most intimate concerns of individuals and the broadest reaches of the church’s mission come together”.
The Parish: A People, A Mission, A Structure, The Committee on the Parish, USCCB, 1982, pp.3,18
There is no doubt that pastoral planning is essential to the development of a parish. Through pastoral planning a parish is able to enter more fully in the mission of Christ in their specific place and informs clarity of purpose and priorities for the usage of parish resources, and encourages the support and participation of parishioners.
The Parish Pastoral Council is the consultative body through which the “plan” will be created. Each parish council will need to devise a planning process suited to their own parish circumstance and the timeline for implementation of the planning process will vary from parish to parish. Pastoral planning is an ongoing part of parish life.