The Pastoral Council is a consultative body to the pastor responsible for recommending policy, developing goals, and coordinating the policy and goals of parish ministries and activities.
The six Commissions are groups which have representation on the Parish Pastoral Council and are responsible for recommending policy and developing goals for one specific area of parish ministry. They share responsibility with the Pastoral Council and the pastor to help to meet the parish goals and achieve the parish mission.
While the Finance Council is represented on the Pastoral Council, it must be noted that the Finance Council sits outside of the Pastoral Council and Commission organizational structure. The Finance Council is a special parish group, the only one which is specifically called for by Canon Law in every parish. Further, it has responsibilities which are carefully detailed in the Code of Canon Law.
The roles of the Pastoral Council and Commissions are identical, although their focus is different. That is, the focus of the Pastoral Council is on the entire parish mission, and the focus of a Commission is on one specific area of the parish mission. The Commissions are: Christian Social Action, Faith Formation, Parish Life, School, Spiritual Life, and Stewardship.
The role consists of the following components: vision / planning; policy; overall coordination; reviewing reports from staff and making suggestions for improvements.
Both the Pastoral Council and the Commissions are concerned with the current year (ie., the next twelve months) and 3-5 year strategic planning. Once again, the difference is in the focus of their efforts.
The orientation of the groups includes: the future; mission of the parish or commission ministry; common good; core values; emerging needs; and listening.
The typical agendas for the Pastoral Council and the Commissions are very similar. They include: reviewing the progress of the Pastoral Plan (either as it relates to the whole or, in the case of the commission, as it relates to the specific ministry); recommending approval of policy that affects the common good (Pastoral Council) or a specific ministry (Commission); recommending approval of goals/objectives; recommending approval of budget; coordinating efforts of commissions (Pastoral Council) and their respective committees; and advising the pastor, at his request, in areas relating to staff performance review.
The accountability of the Council and Commissions is limited. Governing bodies have both the responsibility to make policy/rules and the authority to carry them out. As consultative bodies, the Pastoral Council and the Commissions have the responsibility to recommend policy and procedures.