Diocesan Pastoral Council

The Diocesan Pastoral Council (DPC) is an organization consisting of laity, religious, deacons and priests. Just as a parish council assists a pastor by providing advice and effort in support of the parish, DPC assists Bishop Cunningham in his pastoral care for the entire diocese.

 Where does the concept of a Diocesan Pastoral Council come from?

The Catholic Church has had a long tradition of co-operative action to help the bishop care for God's people in his diocese. Specifically, the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council urged every diocese to establish a pastoral council "whose responsibility is to investigate under the authority of the Bishop all those things which pertain to pastoral works, to ponder them, and to propose practical conclusions about them." (Decree on the Pastoral Office of Bishops, no.27).

How is the Diocesan Pastoral Council organized?

Each parish in the diocese selects one person (who may be clergy, religious or lay) to represent that parish on the DPC. In addition to these parish representatives, there are representatives from each of the diocesan offices, the Presbyteral Council, or any other special ministries - depending on the issues being investigated and pondered by DPC at a particular time.

How does the Diocesan Pastoral Council serve the entire diocese?

The Diocesan Pastoral Council utilizes plenary sessions to create a 'central forum' for exchange of information and ideas on a diocesan-wide level and to strengthen the bonds of communication between the bishop and the parishes. In addition, the DPC Constitution provides for committees composed to address specific issues of diocesan-wide concern (e.g., Catholic education, finances, development of vocations and ministries, allocation of Church personnel resources, etc.).

What happens at plenary session of DPC?

The representative(or an alternate) from each parish is invited to participate in DPC plenary session under the leadership of Bishop Cunningham. These meetings are planned by the DPC Executive Committee in conjunction with the Bishop. Plenary meetings are held four times a year (twice in the Fall and Spring months). Plenary sessions allow the Bishop to share information and consult directly with representation of the entire Diocesan community.

How can I find out more about the Diocesan Pastoral Council?

Call the DPC Executive Secretary, Kathleen (Tina) Dyer at (315)470-1471 or (315) 592-5566.

Historical Background

The Second Vatican Council urged bishops to establish councils of clergy, religious and laity to help them minister to the Catholic people. In 1974 the Syracuse diocese began to organize such a council.

In the Fall of 1978, the new Bishop Frank Harrison formed the Diocesan Pastoral Council to share responsibility with him for the mission of the diocesan Church. He sought a council to promote cooperation among parishes and Church agencies and to help promote greater vitality within the parishes themselves.

After several regional assemblies and cluster meetings, the first appointments were made and the first cluster representatives elected in 1979. At that time there were 35 groups of parishes(clusters) within the diocese. Each cluster had four or five parishes in it and one person was (s)elected from each cluster to serve as the cluster representative on the DPC. The average attendace at a DPC plenary session was between 35-45 people.

In its first year, DPC consulted with Bishop Harrison in developing six five-year diocesan priorities, which were promulgated in January 1981.

During 1981 and 1982, the council discussed implementation of the diocesan priorities and their application to the diocesan budgeting process.

In the Spring of 1983 DPC had its first plenary session and began a major consultation process on the bishop's document, "The Church as Employer".

In April 1983 , the council began a self-evaluation and study which resulted in a DPC Constitution, enacted in May 1984. By-laws were adopted in 1985. Under this reorganization, regional councils and clusters were strengthened and an executive committee was established to handle the continuing business of the council and for the first time a lay person, instead of a priest, was to preside over the council.

A gala inaugural party was held for the new DPC in October 1984 at Immaculate Conception in Fayetteville. At the November meeting six diocesan issues were identified which would be of DPC's ongoing concern and the basis of its continuing agenda:

From 1984 to 1986 the DPC focused on vocations, Catholic social teaching and the future of Catholic education. A consultation on Catholic education was conducted by the various constituent groups within the council. The DPC also conducted a regional review of all HOPE Appeal funded programs and began working with the Senate of Priests on a study and consultation on the future of parish ministry and future allocation of priests, deacons, sisters and lay ministers.

In the Spring of 1986, the council amended its constitution to provide for parish representation to the regional pastoral councils in order to promote grass-roots participation in the council's regional and diocesan-wide mission.

In August of 1987, when Bishop Joseph O'Keefe succeeded Bishop Harrison, DPC, in conjunction with the Senate of Priests, Council of Religious and the permanent deacon community, conducted a synod-like consultation process to update our diocesan Priorities. Through the '87-'88 term, DPC and the regional councils produced lists of priorities under the categories of Parish Life, Education, Persons in Ministry and Social Responsibility. Beginning the '88-'89 term DPC focused on implementing the priorities on the diocesan and regional levels.

In January 1990 DPC began a Youth Evangelization Process with Town Meetings held in all parishes across the diocese. At the end of the year long process DPC recommended to Bishop O'Keefe that a diocesan office for youth ministry be established and a director hired to coordinate diocesan youth ministry efforts.

The next few months DPC focused on "Ministries in the 90s" as a result of Bishop Costello's "Paradigm Shifts" talk which was given in the four regions to over 2300 people. Time was spent educating the membership as to problems facing the Church in the 90s and how best to use our financial and personnel resources to meet the needs of our people .

In October of 1992, DPC continued to focus on "Ministries in the 90s" by working with Sr. Eloise Emm, OSF, Director of the Office of Parish Pastoral Services, to present the first Diocesan Leadership Day which offered a series of workshops designed to strengthen lay participation at the parish level.

In 1993 DPC worked in conjunction with other diocesan offices and agencies as part of the National Catholic Conference of Bishops "Children and Families First Campaign." The Regional and Diocesan Pastoral Councils held sharing sessions of note-worthy children and family related programs and activities happening in the individual parishes.

When Bishop James M. Moynihan succeeded Bishop O'Keefe as Chief Shepherd in May, 1995, a new chapter began in the history of DPC. Bishop Moynihan made vocation recruitment the first priority of the diocese. Within a short time the DPC and the four regional pastoral councils were asked to help in the formation of vocation committees in every parish.

In 1998 as the Catholic Church began preparations to celebrate Jubilee 2000, the DPC joined with Fr. John Wagner and Tina Dyer of the Diocesan Jubilee 2000 Committee to determine how best to bring home the message of two thousand years of Christianity. The DPC and the regional councils participated in promoting six week parish programs in the Fall of 1998 and Lent of 1999 as well as serving as a clearinghouse for various parish Jubilee promotions and activities.

As the specter of declining numbers of ordained clergy became a reality in the Diocese of Syracuse, the DPC began to question how to meet this challenge of the new millennium. With the appointment of Rev. James P. Lang as the Director of the Office of Pastoral Planning and Vicar for Parishes, the DPC heard the statistics of reality. Both the DPC and the RPCs accepted the challenge to answer how the diocese might proceed in the upcoming reconfiguration of parishes and the allotment of priests and deacons.

In the Fall of 1999, acknowledging the changes in diocesan structures introduced by Bishop Moynihan as well as the need to broaden the base of membership and communication, the DPC with the help of Sr. Eloise Emm, OSF revised its constitution to offer every parish the opportunity to send a voting representative to the DPC plenary sessions.

In the Fall of 2000 the council began wrestling with the issue of fewer priests for ministry. A United States Conference of Catholic Bishops report "Pastoral Planning in a Time of Fewer Priests" was presented to the membership in order to provide accurate information on the declining number of priest that could be taken back to their parish pastoral councils. During 2001-2002 the DPC continued to work with the Office of Pastoral Planning and became a part of the consultation process for Standards of Parish Viability.

In April of 2002, DPC co-sponsored with the Office of Pastoral Planning a workshop for parish pastoral council member and parish trustees. Almost 400 council members representing 146 parishes participated in the day's activities, which included sessions for parish pastoral council presidents, members, trustees and the DPC representative. The same program also was offered for all priests and deacons.

During the summer of 2000 DPC continued to work with the Office of Pastoral Planning by conducting a survey of parish pastoral councils to determine such things as: the viability of councils, composition, meeting times, agenda items, communication to other parishioners, etc. 92% of the parishes responded.

In the Fall of 2002 Bishop Costello, Director of the Office of Priest Personnel asked the DPC to look at the process of "Assigning Priests to Parishes" and to respond by suggesting ways to improve the existing process of start from the ground floor and help design the alternative. The council formed working groups to look at: The Priests Personnel Committee, the process of appointing a pastor, Financial Recompense, Non-financial Recompense, Accountability, and the Interim Pastor Concept. At the May 2003 plenary session the membership profile voted on 21 recommendations that were given to Bishop Moynihan for his consideration.

In the Spring of 2003 DPC collaborated with the Office of Pastoral Planning and offered "A Day for Parish Trustees and Parish Finance Council Leadership." Each parish was invited to send one trustee and one finance council member. 230 people registered. The purpose of the workshop day was to help parish leaders more fully understand Civil and Canon Law as it relates to their roles in the parishes.

In May of 2003 DPC endorsed a revised constitution which abolished regional pastoral councils. Since every parish is encouraged to send a parish council representative to the DPC plenary sessions, the membership thought that regional councils were redundant. However, RPCs may call meetings as the needs arise.

For the 2003-2004 DPC term the membership worked diligently to develop and endorse a diocesan mission statement, value statements and goals, which in turn were promulgated by Bishop Moynihan.

In May of 2004 the council added a segment to every agenda called Best Practices - Our Faith in Action. Parish representatives are offered the opportunity to share a special program or activity they think other parishes might want to implement.