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Why a Parish Constitution/Charter/Plan of Operation/etc.?

Why a written document? For the same reason we have written gospels, namely, to put into writing the very nature of the parish, its purpose, the respective responsibilities and authority of the lay and clerical leaders and various parish organizations -- in sum, the way members celebrate and live their Catholic faith in this parish community. Must the parish community be subject to the whim and will of each pastor? Is the priest the parish or are the people, who live their lives and faith there, giving it life and vitality? Priests come and go, but the community remains. The people create the conditions and spirit of the Christian parish community and the priest serves and ministers to them.

Clearly, each parish is different, has its strengths and weakness, its own customs and celebrations and should have its own written document to spell out its mission statement, its own best practices, its particular way of organizing within the guidelines of the Church, as a means of continuity through changing lay and clerical leadership, to be adapted as needed.

Creating such a document takes a great deal of work by a dedicated team-oriented group. The creation of a parish constitution should be explained to and endorsed by the whole parish, and team members should be elected by the parish and include representatives from the parish council, finance committee, other organizations and special groups. The whole parish must be kept informed of the progress being made in the formulation of the constitution. Developing a parish constitution is a worthwhile project, and the process alone can give new life, insights, and perspectives to any parish.

Writing a Bill of Rights is often a good start for a parish constitution project. ARCC can help you do this.

We all have a stake in such projects and if you have already worked on a parish constitution/working paper /charter, please share your wisdom and a copy of your work with us.