Pastor’s Page – Giving Feedback

I wasn’t around before the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), but I’m told Church leadership on every level rarely consulted its constituents. The bishop didn’t consult his priests and the pastor didn’t consult his parishioners. Since Vatican II, there’s been plentiful opportunities for consultation. Dioceses now have “priest councils” and parishes have pastoral and finance councils.

But there are also occasional consultations with everyone. When I was in seminary, Bishop Galante was conducting “Speak Up” sessions throughout the Diocese of Camden. By the time I was ordained, consultations had just finished around parish mergers (mergers – what an awful name to use in the Church!) During my pastorate in Atlantic City, the Spanish-speaking ministry and I participated in “V Encuentro” – the fifth nationwide conversation “to discern ways in which the Church in the United States can better respond to the Hispanic/Latino presence.” On its heels, the whole parish was asked to send delegates to the diocese’s Convocation of Catholic Leaders. Shortly after my arrival in Haddonfield, we were asked to collect opinions for a global synod (fancy word for Church meeting) organized by Pope Francis.

Such big consultations are expensive – staff at every level of the Church must sort through the massive response and hotels and conference centers are often needed for the regional and national meetings. Months or even years after the average person forgets about it, the steering committee releases a long summary document. Then nothing changes. After this pattern repeats a few times, savvy people stop participating.

On this topic, I like to think small. There’s two key ways for you to offer your opinion about the parish. If it’s tied to a recent event, use the website (or from our parish website, click on “Calendar”). Click on the event, then click to leave feedback. You’ll be asked about some standard statements written by the pastoral council, then given an opportunity to add your own words. The pastoral council and the parish staff have instant access to these reviews. Leaving your name and email allows us to respond in a meaningful and purposeful manner which enables us to bring about positive change.

If you have “big picture” opinions to share about the parish, mark your calendar for Wednesday, May 8 at 7 PM. That’s our third annual discernment meeting, a parish town hall in which every parishioner is welcome to speak for 60 seconds. After the floor is closed, we take nominations for three new members of the pastoral council. By the fall, the council is determined to act on the opinions that had the most traction from the parishioners.

These are small but simple ways for consultation to occur at the parish level. They’re effective. So I ask you to give Church consultations one more try – right here at Christ the King.