We touched on parish councils last week in the Governance and Advisory Bodies forum. i wanted to elaborate somewhat from a human resources point of view.

Number 11 of the Standards for Excellence, regarding board composition, states: The board should be composed of individuals who are personally committed to the mission of the organization and possess the specific skills needed to accomplish the mission.

Applying the above statement to your parish or pastoral council, it just makes sense to recruit those with specifically needed and varied skills. When you do so, your parish receives the benefit of their experience and advice, and they are gratified to offer their time and assistance to an entity that matters to them.

I would offer one caveat, however, with respect to human resources matters. While the pastor benefits from hearing the advice of his pastoral council, it is important for him to consult with the diocesan human resources director as well, especially in the matter of employee terminations.  Why, if he is getting professional advice from council members? There are three primary reasons. (1) Because the council member’s experience is likely to be outside the parish setting. (2) Because the diocese has a philosophy on how it wishes to handle employee matters based upon Catholic social teaching, encyclicals, canon law, etc. (3) The diocese may have employment practices liability insurance that requires checking with the human resources director to ensure the termination has been reviewed by someone knowledgeable. Finally, the human resources director possesses a larger view of how terminations are handled in the diocese.

We want to do our best to ensure an employee who is being terminated has had the benefit of performance counseling up to the point of termination and that we follow good pastoral practice in communicating the eventual decision to terminate. We are not terminating him or her as a parishioner (if that is the case) or as a Catholic, only as an employee.

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Congratulations to Marcy Meldahl on raising the topic about pastoral councils advising pastors regarding employee terminations.  Too often pastors do not consult councils on such sensitive topics, either because the councilors are inexperienced or because pastors wish to keep the matter confidential.  But pastors may consult councils about any practical topic, and councils succeed when they give pastors good advice.  The greatest satisfaction to council members is when a pastor accepts the council's recommendations and implements them.  This happens when pastors come to councils with significant questions for which the pastor seeks real answers.

David makes a great point. Getting involved in a personnel situation, particularly a termination is hardly the "think-tank" role...or anything like the "investigating, pondering, and reaching conclusions" language of Vatican II. Personally, I would think there would be strong arguments against bringing in the whole finance council, though there might be individuals with skills in this area who serve on the finance council that a pastor may wish to invite into a conversation.


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