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Mary Foss wrote:

Dear Mr. Humphrey,

My name is Mary Foss. I am writing a novel and have some general questions.

For example, the priest in my novel is serving a small parish in western Wisconsin.

  • Would that parish have two councils?

I thought I read somewhere a while ago that there is usually a general council and a finance council.

Thank you for any help you can give me.


Mary Foss

  { What is the general structure and make-up of councils and ministries within a Catholic parish? }

Mike replied:

Hi, Mary —

Thank you for your question.

The number and type of councils and committees will vary from parish to parish depending on the charisms of the faithful in each parish and the spiritual needs of the various parishioners. This is a general outline of one setup we had at our parish when I was the Web Administrator.

Sharing and Celebrating in Ministries at St. Patrick's Parish.

The Eighth Synod of the Archdiocese of Boston states:

"A Parish is a community of the People of God who are joined together by their common faith in Jesus Christ as expressed in and through their baptismal commitment. It recognizes that, essential to its very existence, is its belonging to the Archdiocese, and through the Archdiocese, to the universal Church.

Today's parish community is called to be a center and source for the faith development of all its people, while at the same time it must be an extended family, one that is marked by a sense of belonging, a desire for participation, a need for commitment and a spirit of welcome."

To live the parish life means to grow in faith and love. This is most fully realized in the celebration of the Sunday Liturgy. And it is most fully expressed in living a Stewardship Way of Life. We are a people whom God has abundantly blessed. Our first attitude to this blessing is thanksgiving, and this is expressed in the sharing of time, treasure and talent.

There are the three councils, each of which is advisory to the pastor in its own unique way:

Parish Pastoral Council

The Parish Pastoral Council (PPC) has the role of listening and visioning. Its purpose is to prayerfully discern the voice of the Lord as He leads us from where we are to where He wants us next to be. The Pastoral Council must watch over the entire parish and give counsel to the pastor as to what needs must be met and what talents can be tapped. This council must dream realistically about the future and always work to keep the parish moving in the ways of the Lord's truth and love.

There are four commissions under the PPC to facilitate attainment of the goals projected by the PPC. They are:

  • Liturgy
  • Religious Education
  • Consistent Ethic of Life, and
  • Stewardship

Each ministry is assigned to a commission to aid in communication.

Our hopes and dreams for the future of St. Patrick Parish are that more people will experience
a greater sense of belonging, a willingness to share talents and a better sense of involvement
in their church.

Parish Finance Council

The Parish Finance Council (PFC) is a body designated by Church Law to advise the pastor (and parish) in matters pertaining to the material needs of the parish community. It must provide this counsel with the understanding of the "Gospel" mission of the Church.

The PFC's mission is to develop the financial strategy needed to carry out the goals of the parish as discerned by the Pastor, Pastoral Council, Administrative Council and parishioners. In carrying out this local mission the Council must also be aware of its relationship and obligations to the Archdiocese and the Universal Church.

The Council is specifically required by Canon Law to report annually the parish's financial position to the parish community. Its other duties include:

  • financial procedure/controls
  • church property maintenance and improvements
  • financial planning
  • providing assistance to the parish Business Manager implementing Archdiocesan policies
  • promoting the stewardship way of life in the sharing of:
    • time
    • treasure, and
    • talent.

Parish Administration Council

The Parish Administrative Council is comprised of our parish staff, including Parochial Vicars (priests), Deacon, Pastoral Associate, Director of Religious Education, Youth Minister, Director of Music, Business Manager and Sexton. This Council provides the pastor with the advice on the practical administration of the parish but is also an executive board responsible for proper running of our parish programs.

Other committees we had include the following:

St. Patrick Building Committee

This committee is appointed by the pastor and is comprised of parishioners with specific trade and real estate skills. The chairman of the committee is our church sexton, [name withheld], and committee members rotate every two to three years. The goal is to act as an ad hoc advisory committee to the Finance Council. They periodically check parish and cemetery facilities and visit property leased to other organizations for the sake of assuring proper maintenance. They make recommendations as to the prioritization of projects and help in the estimation of the costs to be expended on particular projects.

St. Patrick Cemetery Committee

This committee is appointed by the pastor and is comprised of parishioners who are lot holders at St. Patrick Cemetery. The chairman of this committee is our church sexton, and committee members rotate every two to three years. The goal is to be an advisory committee to the pastor and cemetery sexton. Members periodically tour the cemetery grounds and make suggestions about the property. This committee is aware of our cemetery's policies and can make suggestions for improvements to make these consecrated grounds so they will be seen at their best. Our sexton is [name withheld]. He, is a member of the National Catholic Cemetery Conference, the New England Cemetery Association and the Massachusetts Cemetery Association.

A Sexton is a Church custodian charged with keeping the church and parish buildings prepared for meetings, caring for church equipment, and performing related minor duties such as ringing the bell and digging graves.

Other ministries we had in our parish are listed in alphabetical order below. Depending on the size of the parish and number of parishioners who are able to participate, the ministries at any one parish, will vary from parish to parish.


Adoration Ministry
Altar Servers Ministry
Altar Society


Barnabas' Men of Encouragement
Baptismal Instruction
Bereavement and Hope Ministry
Bible Study


Disability Ministry


Elderly Outreach Ministry
Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist


Fellowship of Young Adults
Firefighter Prayer Ministry


Grief Ministry


Hospital Visitation Ministry
Hospitality Ministry


Lector Ministry
Library Ministry


Marian Sodality
Marriage Preparation Ministry
Music Ministry


Parish-Based Health Care Ministry
Peace and Justice Ministry
Pine Street Inn Ministry
Prayer Group Ministry
Prison Ministry


Religious Education Ministry
Respect Life Ministry
Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults ( RCIA )


Sister Parish Ministry
Scouting Ministry
Sports Ministry - Adults
Sports Ministry - Youth
St. Vincent de Paul Society
Sunday Morning Coffee Ministry


Ushers Ministry


Video Library Ministry
Vocation Ministry


Welcoming Ministry
Willing Hands Ministry


Youth Ministry

I hope this answers your question.


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