Pastoral Council Accompaniment Programme

“How necessary the Pastoral Councils are! A Bishop cannot lead a diocese without the Pastoral Councils. A parish priest cannot lead a parish without the Pastoral Councils. This is fundamental!”

Pope Francis, Pastoral Visit to Assisi, 4th October 2013 

One of the commitments from the Assembly is that Bishop David has invited every parish to develop a functioning pastoral council. However, we know that some of our experiences of pastoral councils have not been good! This suggests that simply having better meetings or taking better minutes will not make long-term change.  

Following the Assembly, a small group in the diocese has been working on a re-imagining of pastoral councils, a distinctly Catholic model of decision-making, which does not rely on business methods but draws on centuries-old practices of spiritual discernment. 

We have developed this into a Pastoral Council Accompaniment Programme. This is both for new pastoral councils and councils which need a refresh. The programme runs from Sep 2024-July 2025, and is designed to support pastoral councils/vision/mission teams as they get off the ground. 

We begin with a retreat day at Thornton College, College Ln, Milton Keynes, MK17 0HJ, on Saturday 21st September 2024. Throughout the day, there will be a chance to get to know one another in your pastoral council, explore questions using the Conversation in the Spirit structure, think about the purpose of pastoral councils and look at decision-making through discernment of the Holy Spirit. We are delighted to be joined by Veronica Smith from the Jesuit Institute who will lead us on the day. This year the programme will run as a pilot, with space for 10 parishes.  

Following this, we suggest three phases.  

  • The first phase (September – December 2024) is focused on getting to know one other and how the team works together, what skills you have collectively and how to become a living faith community. Planning an activity in the run-up to Christmas is a good way to get started. 
  • The second phase (January – April 2025) is about creating a vision for the future. Within this phase, the vision process can be used to open the conversation within your parish community to consider where God is currently and where God might be calling you to be.  
  • The third phase (April – July 2025) is focused on putting the vision created in phase two into practice. The vision created can be used to implement strategies in your parish community. Parishioners can be invited to help implement change for the community.  
  • There will also be the opportunity for group coaching and support for parish priests and Chairs to share how things are really going, and devise solutions together.  

The Pastoral Council Accompaniment Programme will end with a Celebration Mass in July 2025, an opportunity to come together to celebrate the year’s work.  

If you are interested and would like to be involved in the Pastoral Council Accompaniment Programme, please email Alex Shelton-Bourke at alexandra.shelton-bourke@northamptondiocese.org You can find the “Re-imagining pastoral council briefing” here: https://northamptondiocese.org/not-another-parish-council-meeting/.