Bishop Foys Promulgates Parish Council Guidelines

By: Laura Keener

Another initiative of the 2006 Synod document was completed, Dec. 3, with the promulgation of the revised Diocesan Norms for Parish Pastoral Councils. Guidelines for Parish Pastoral Councils had not been updated since 1985, and updated guidelines were identified as a policy in the Synod document. Additionally, pastors were asking Bishop Roger Foys if the diocese had guidelines or updated guidelines.

“As many councils as there are, that’s how many different guidelines we had,” said Bishop Foys. “There was no one specific guideline that said, ‘this is what a parish council is, this is what a parish council does and this is how it operates.’”

Bishop Foys said that under the previous guidelines it was optional for a parish to establish a Parish Pastoral Council. But the 2006 Synod document directed that parishes be required to establish a Parish Pastoral Council. (Policy Admin 4) The Synod also directed that “the Diocese will provide norms for the establishment and function of parish pastoral councils.” (Policy Admin 5)

“If we are going to mandate parish councils in every parish we need to have guidelines so they are all following the same structure,” Bishop Foys said.

The revised guidelines were developed by representatives from lay pastoral councils, priests and staff and reviewed by the Presbyteral Council and Deanery Pastoral Councils before being presented to Bishop Foys for review and possible promulgation.

“I didn’t, purposely, exercise any input because I wanted this to come from the various councils,” said Bishop Foys.

The diocesan norms in establishing Parish Pastoral Councils and their role have always conformed to the 1983 Code of Canon Law, which states:

— “If the diocesan bishop judges it opportune after he has heard the presbyteral council, a pastoral council is to be established in each parish, over which the pastor presides and in which the Christian faithful, together with those who share in pastoral care by virtue of their office in the parish, assist in fostering pastoral activity.” (c. 536 §1)

— “A pastoral council possesses a consultative vote only and is governed by the norms established by the diocesan bishop.” (c. 536 §2)

The diocesan norms acknowledge the consultative function of the Parish Pastoral Council by requiring “consensus” and specifying that final decisions are the responsibility of the pastor.

“Recommendations made by the council to the pastor should involve consensus. Consensus is a process of deliberation that requires open dialogue, listening, prayer and discernment. The pastor will consider the advice and recommendations of the council in his decision making. Whatever form this takes, the pastor always retains the responsibility for the final decision.” (Diocese of Covington, Parish Pastoral Council Guidelines, 2017)

The consultative role of Parish Pastoral Councils should not be minimized. “If advisory councils or committees have studied the matter, then that advice is extremely valuable,” said Bishop Foys.

Another important update to the guidelines is the inclusion of the Deanery Pastoral Council representative as an “ex officio” member of the Parish Pastoral Council. The Deanery Pastoral Council member is the parish’s representative to the diocese and the deanery. There are five deaneries, organized geographically, throughout the diocese. Each parish belongs to a deanery.

Through the Deanery Pastoral Council member information is gathered from the diocese and deanery and relayed back to the Parish Pastoral Council. For example, each year the diocesan Curia develops its annual pastoral plan. This plan is sent to the Deanery Pastoral Councils for their review and each Deanery Pastoral Council member reviews the plan with his/her Parish Pastoral Council.

The Deanery Pastoral Council member also delivers any information and concerns from the Parish Pastoral Council to the deanery and the diocese. For example, the Deanery Pastoral Council member relays feedback to the annual diocesan pastoral plan to the Deanery Pastoral Councils and the diocesan Curia.

“It’s giving back and forth of information,” said Bishop Foys. “If a parish doesn’t have a Deanery Pastoral Council member on their parish council the structure falls apart.”

Bishop Foys said that each parish might choose to develop particular guidelines for its Parish Pastoral Council as long as those guidelines do not violate diocesan guidelines. Each parish that develops particular guidelines should submit them to the diocese for review.

“Not to scrutinize them but to make sure, then, that every parish has a working structure for their Parish Pastoral Council,” said Bishop Foys.

Bishop Foys announces Year of Prayer for Priestly Vocations

By: David Cooley

Bishop Roger Foys has announced that he has designated the coming year as the “Year of Prayer for Priestly Vocations.” The year will officially begin with solemn vespers at the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption, Covington, on the solemnity of Christ the King, Nov. 26, and conclude on the same solemnity in 2018.

Bishop Roger Foys is asking the faithful to continue to pray for vocations to the priesthood, diaconate and consecrated life, but especially to the priesthood during this special year.

While a primary focus throughout the year will be prayer within family life there will also be a strong emphasis on prayer for vocations within the diocesan schools.

Bishop Foys, Father Andrew Young, vocations promoter, and other diocesan priests will visit every one of the high schools, celebrate Mass, and spend an extended amount of time with the students, focusing on vocations. These events will be called “Vocations Day.” Father Young will also be visiting the diocesan grade schools.

In each of the five deaneries, throughout the year, there will be “Deanery Discernment Events” that will include Holy Hours, presentations, dinner, social time and other group activities. Throughout the year, there will also be special articles featured in the Messenger, giving readers insight to the vocations of many of the priests currently serving in the diocese. The same prayer for priestly vocations will be prayed at every parish during each weekend Mass. This prayer will be prayed either as a conclusion to the Prayer of the Faithful or at the end of the Mass.

“The whole year has a dual purpose,” said Bishop Foys in an interview with the Messenger. “First, the purpose is to pray for vocations; and, second, to raise the consciousness of our people about vocations and the need for vocations in order for them to make that vocation culture a part of their life.”

Bishop Foys said that he is very excited about this upcoming year. What’s great about it is that everyone can pray for vocations and raise awareness of the need for priests and vocations, he said.

“The faithful can begin by praying as a family for vocations and they can also encourage, not only their children and grandchildren, but also the people in their parish whom they might believe have a vocation to the priesthood, religious life or the diaconate. Encouragement is sometimes all these young people need,” he said. “It is important to also support the seminarians we have now. Our people are very generous with their financial support, and our hope is that they are also generous with their prayers. A parish that has a seminarian stationed at their church should also do their best to encourage him.”

Bishop Foys said that when he goes on school visits and talks with the students or when he talks to the confirmandi and asks the young men if they have ever thought about being a priest, more often than not they’ll say, “Yes.” Moreover, when he asks the children before their confirmation if there is anyone in their class who would make a good priest they all, invariably, point to one or two young men.

“So, these things are in their thoughts and consciousness,” he said.

Bishop Foys has been heard to say, often, that God, of course, is still calling but people aren’t listening and God’s voice is drowned out by many other things.

“It is our culture in general — the secular society has become so engrained in people,” he said. “The Church at one time was the center of people’s lives. Now, we live in a different time. In this age, the priority of priesthood and religious life doesn’t often rise to the top.”

Bishop Foys said that another issue is that the visibility of the numerous priests and women religious at the schools interacting with the children has extremely declined.

“I look at the history of our schools here and, at one time, they were staffed by almost all priests and religious sisters and brothers,” he said. “It was unusual to have a lay teacher.”

Bishop Foys said that he believes the Year for Prayer for Priestly Vocations is, at the very least, a step in the right direction.

“Prayer,” said Bishop Foys, “should be the first step, when it is time to make a decision or if there is some kind of need. It is the first step, not the last step — we should put whatever it is in God’s hands first.”

Aware that, these days, people are very busy, Bishop Foys said that the faithful should take at least 10 minutes a day to pray.

“Go off by yourself somewhere; read the Scriptures,” he said. “The hope that goes along with that is if you take that small amount of time, eventually you will want to do more.”

Bishop Foys said that the Year of Prayer for Priestly Vocations is a time to reflect on the importance of priests in society and in the lives of God’s people.

“A priest is another Christ,” he said. “The priest is called to minister to God’s people. The priesthood is a life of serving. The priest, through the Mass and the sacraments, brings the Lord to people and the people to the Lord. He is a conduit.

“If someone asked me at the end of my life, how would I determine if it was a success or not, I would say that if I brought just one person to Christ, for me, that would be a success.”