April 24, 2015

Archdiocesan Pastoral Council re-created ‘to pray, study and recommend’ pastoral plan for central and southern Indiana

Members of the re-established Archdiocesan Pastoral Council pose after their installation at St. Bartholomew Church in Columbus on April 18. Front row: Sue Heck, left, Sara Castillo, Keith Bauer, Domoni Rouse, Mary Lee Smith and Father Joseph Moriarty. Middle row: Claudia Dominik, left, Mary Kay Wolford, Benedictine Sister Carol Falkner, Dabrice Bartet and Annette “Mickey” Lentz. Back row: Conventual Franciscan Father Mark Weaver, left, Larry Schremser, Bill Ward, Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin, Randy Ezell, Juan González and Deacon Wayne Davis. Not pictured are members Barbara Black, Paul Jannsen, Richard Steininger and Msgr. William Stumpf. (Photos by Natalie Hoefer)

Members of the re-established Archdiocesan Pastoral Council pose after their installation at St. Bartholomew Church in Columbus on April 18. Front row: Sue Heck, left, Sara Castillo, Keith Bauer, Domoni Rouse, Mary Lee Smith and Father Joseph Moriarty. Middle row: Claudia Dominik, left, Mary Kay Wolford, Benedictine Sister Carol Falkner, Dabrice Bartet and Annette “Mickey” Lentz. Back row: Conventual Franciscan Father Mark Weaver, left, Larry Schremser, Bill Ward, Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin, Randy Ezell, Juan González and Deacon Wayne Davis. Not pictured are members Barbara Black, Paul Jannsen, Richard Steininger and Msgr. William Stumpf. (Photos by Natalie Hoefer)

By Natalie Hoefer

COLUMBUS—When Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin began shepherding the Catholic Church in central and southern Indiana in December of 2012, he noticed that something was missing.

“Knowing what the Church expects of a bishop today led me to notice that a key place for listening and reflecting and praying was not yet established,” he said.

That “key place” was an archdiocesan pastoral council, a group of advisors representing the broad spectrum of lay persons, clergy and religious throughout the archdiocese.

“We had had a pastoral council in the past, and for a number of different reasons it fell into disuse,” he noted. “Given the complexity of the Church’s mission today, especially in the geographic and cultural circumstances we find ourselves in in central and southern Indiana, [an archdiocesan pastoral council] is invaluable.”

(Related: Lay, clergy and religious members from throughout archdiocese make up APC)

After the installation of 17 of the 22 members of the re-created Archdiocesan Pastoral Council (APC) at St. Bartholomew Church in Columbus on April 18, the joy in the archbishop’s voice was audible.

“Brothers and sisters, I can’t tell you how much I’ve looked forward to this day,” he said. “For me, Christmas has come in April.”

But the re-established APC is important to more than just himself, Archbishop Tobin noted.

“By our baptism, all of us are called to be missionary disciples,” he explained. “A missionary disciple can’t sit on his or her hands—but we also shouldn’t be called to waste our time, which we do when we spend time on projects that aren’t part of God’s plan.

“So the average Catholic should be grateful and enthusiastic that there is a group of very competent and enthusiastic lay people, priests and religious that is meeting with me first to pray, and to study and recommend.”

That description summarizes the role of the APC, as outlined in the statues laid out by a steering committee and based on the Code of Canon Law and the Second Vatican Council document, “Decree on the Pastoral Office of Bishops in the Church.”

The document states, “It is greatly desirable that in each diocese a pastoral commission be established … in which specially chosen clergy, religious and lay people will participate. The function of this council will be to investigate and weigh matters which bear on pastoral activity and to formulate practical conclusions regarding them” (#27).

Pope Francis has spoken in favor of such pastoral councils. In his apostolic exhortation, “The Joy of the Gospel,” he stated that these bodies “make ordinary pastoral activity on every level more inclusive and open … ” (#27).

Mercy Sister Sharon Euart, executive director of the Resource Center of Religious Institutions in Silver Springs, Md., was asked by Archbishop Tobin to facilitate the re-establishment of the archdiocese’s pastoral council. She explained the mission of the council in simple terms.

“This is more pastoral, more planning, more direction setting,” she said. “[Archbishop Tobin] often talks about the doors God is calling to be opened in the archdiocese. This is the group that will grab hold of the doors and help him move forward.”

Such a group must be representative of the whole archdiocese, said Sister Sharon.

“The archbishop consulted the Council of Deans for the lay member [nominations], the Council of Priests and the different religious institutes in the archdiocese,” she explained.

The steering committee opted for a maximum size of 25 members. The statutes lay out how many should be clergy, lay people, members of religious institutions and at-large members appointed by the archbishop.

“The [at-large] appointments ensure a better representation of the archdiocese, like a young adult or an ethnic group that might not be represented through the other nominations,” Sister Sharon explained.

From 60 nominations, Archbishop Tobin selected a total of 22 members. The council includes lay persons representing all 11 deaneries, members of various ethnic backgrounds, two archdiocesan priests, a Benedictine sister from Our Lady of Grace Monastery in Beech Grove, a Conventual Franciscan priest, a deacon, and a high school campus minister to represent youths and young adults in the archdiocese. “The deans and other representative groups were very cooperative in offering not only names, but very qualified people that made my selection more difficult,” Archbishop Tobin admitted.

“It was an honor [to be asked to serve on the council], knowing the history of Archbishop Tobin, knowing the things he’s done around the world, and what he’s trying to do here,” said Juan González, a member of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Indianapolis who now serves on the APC. “I’m looking forward to that open conversation, that flow of ideas between the Church and the community, and how do we increase that communication flow.”

Council member Benedictine Sister Carol Falkner, administrator of the Benedict Inn Retreat & Conference Center in Beech Grove, shares González’s enthusiasm.

“As you’re discussing with all these people from the various deaneries and various walks of life, you just see how much the Church can reach out to people,” she said. “It’s my hope we can make that difference of really driving the mission in the archdiocese, not just for those outside the Church but also those inside the Church who need attention and care.”

Members will serve three-year terms, with current members drawing lots for serving one, two or three years to prevent all members rotating out at the same time.

The council, over which the archbishop will preside, will normally meet twice a year, but included a third meeting this year for “housekeeping details,” the archbishop explained.

Once the planning meetings are under way, Archbishop Tobin has high hopes for the newly re-instituted Archdiocesan Pastoral Council.

“What I hope will happen, and I trust is going to happen,” he said, “is that, with the help of the APC as well as some of the other consultative counsels, we’ll eventually produce a pastoral plan that will say to the people of the archdiocese that, in the face of the many needs and the many challenges that confront us, these are the most important ones, and this is where we’re going to spend our energy.” †

Local site Links:

Like this story? Then share it!