The Archdiocese has begun planning for a Lay Advisory Council to the Archbishop. We learned of it from Tim O'Malley, the Archdiocesan Safe Environment Director, an invited guest to the CCCR Board meeting on Saturday, October 13. The goal is open and honest two-way communication between parishioners and the Archbishop. We do not know what the final plan for the structure will look like, nor how much input we will have into it, but we have submitted our written proposal for the following organizational plan:
Each Parish/Parish Council s/elects a member of the parish to represent them on a Lay Deanery Council. There are about 12 parishes in each of the 15 parish deaneries covering the geography of the Archdiocese.
Lay Deanery Councils meet each month and make plans for the benefit of the parishes in the deanery. They listen to the concerns expressed by the people in the parishes and bring them for discussion to the Lay Deanery Council meetings. They receive extensive formation to discern the work of the Holy Spirit among the faithful.
Each of the Lay Deanery Councils s/elects a member to the Lay Advisory Council to the Archbishop.
The Archbishop meets with the Lay Advisory Council regularly and frequently, at least every other month. The members bring matters of concern from the parishioners to the Archbishop and the Archbishop uses the network to communicate his concerns to the Lay Deanery Councils. Read the whole proposal here.
Here is the crucial question: Can the Lay Deanery Councils and the Lay Advisory Council be established as freely collaborative bodies, not controlled by clergy? We are reluctant even to ask the question for fear of setting up "us vs. them" dynamics between pastors and parishioners. We desperately need to work together. But our experience has been that clericalism is so deeply rooted in our culture that clerical control happens automatically and lay people go along with it, fear on both sides. So we may be justified in asking everyone to deal with the question of independence directly and with compassion for each other's insecurities.
Maybe it will help if we stay focused on the idea of having all points of view presented to the Archbishop as decision-maker. He needs to see situations from all angles. There is no question that pastors have their own angle of vision, absolutely valuable to the well-being of the community. The deans of the deaneries have seats on the Presbyteral Council and provide their points of view in those meetings. Lay people who work in the parish and archdiocesan ministries have their very valuable angle of vision and presumably have means to communicate with the Archbishop. The people in the pews--the parishioners--have a different and also valuable perspective that, to date, has not had a voice. We hope the Lay Deanery Councils and the Lay Advisory Council will be independent bodies that serve to make the local church stronger by including the diversity of views among parishioners and by being accountable to parish councils.
Can you see a way to help ease this new channel of communication into existence as an effective support for everyone's growth? We are responsible to make it work if we can.