Through Baptism and Confirmation all are called to exercise both their right and responsibility to participate fully in the life and mission of the Church. This mission of the Church is rooted in the mission of Christ who commanded everyone – clergy, religious and laity – to “Go into the whole world and proclaim the good news to all of creation.” (Mark 16:15).
This vocation of all the People of God, the community of believers in Jesus Christ, to promote the Reign of God on earth permeates the teachings and spirit of the documents of Vatican Council II. All members of the Church -laity, religious and clergy- according to their proper charisms and rolescollaborate in the responsibility for fulfilling its mission. Vatican Council II urged active involvement in the life of the Church by emphasizing theprinciples of collaborative responsibility, consultation and lay participation.
…the laity have an active part to play in the life and activity of the Church. Their activity is so necessary within Church communities that without it the apostolate of the pastors is generally unable to achieve its full effectiveness.
Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity, 10.
Pastors also know that they themselves were not meant by Christ to shoulder alone the entire saving mission of the Church toward the world. On the contrary, they understand that it is their noble duty so to shepherdthe faithful and recognize their service and charismatic gifts that all according to their proper roles may cooperate in this common undertaking with one heart.
Dogmatic Constitution On the Church, 30.
The Pastor needs to consult with the laity who in turn have the right to express their views and concerns to their Pastor. An important structure initiated to foster this collaboration in the mission of the Church by all itsmembers is the Parish Pastoral Council. The Parish Pastoral Council assists pastors in achieving the cooperation of the parishioners and staff in the taskof carrying out the mission of the Church on the parish level.
While the Parish Pastoral Council is not explicitly mentioned in the documents of Vatican Council II, the theological principles which underlie it are clearly enunciated and a rationale for its development is given.
… by reason of the knowledge, competence or pre-eminence which they have, the laity are empowered, indeed sometimes obliged, to manifest their opinion in those things which pertain to the good of the Church. If the occasion should arise, this should be done through the institutions established by the Church for that purpose and always with truth, courage and prudence and with reverence and charity towards those who by reason of their office, represent the person of Christ.
Dogmatic Constitution On the Church, 37.
The 1983 Code of Canon Law gives juridic value to Vatican Council II’s teaching on the vocation and mission of the People of God and provides structures to express and encourage collaborative responsibility on every level of ecclesial administration.
Canon 208 speaks of everyone’s responsibility to work together in the building up of the Body of Christ.
In virtue of their rebirth in Christ there exists among all the Christian faithful a true equality with regard to dignity and the activity whereby all cooperate in the building up of the Body of Christ in accord with each one’s own condition and function.
Code of Canon Law, 208.
Canon 519 calls for the Pastor to develop structures which incorporate the principles of collaborative responsibility and of consultation with the staff and parishioners.
The pastor is the proper shepherd of the parish entrusted to him, exercising pastoral care in the community entrusted to him under the authority of the diocesan bishop in whose ministry of Christ he has been called to share; in accord with the norm of law he carries out for his community the duties of teaching, sanctifying and governing, with the cooperation of other presbyters or deacons and the assistance of lay members of the Christian faithful.
Code of Canon Law, 519.
This Canon emphasizes the role of the community which gives meaning to the office of Pastor and it places him in the context of mutual collaboration with the staff and parishioners in promoting the mission of the Church.
Canon 536 specifically deals with Parish Pastoral Councils.
After the diocesan bishop has listened to the presbyteral council and if he judges it opportune, a pastoral council is to be established in each parish; the pastor presides over it, and through it the Christian faithful along with those who share in the pastoral care of the parish in virtue of their office give their help in fostering pastoral activity. This pastoral council possesses a consultative vote only and is governed by norms determined by the diocesan bishop.
Code of Canon Law, 536.
It is envisioned that the Parish Pastoral Council is to be a major consultative body in the parish which advises the Pastor who presides over the Council. It is composed of the Parochial Vicar(s) and representative parish staff members who carry out the pastoral functions of the parish and of laity who are representatives of the membership of the parish. The purpose of the Parish Pastoral Council is to foster full participation of the entire parish in the life and mission of the Church which reflects the mission of Christ who was sent “…to bring glad tidings to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives, recovery of sight to the blind and release to prisoners…”(Luke 4:18).