Pastoral council discusses a wide range of diocesan priorities

COLUMBIA – Bishop Robert J. Baker met with his diocesan pastoral council Oct. 25 at St. Joseph Church in Columbia.

The council is the representative body to the bishop that is a medium for consultation with lay people of the diocese.

The bishop discussed diocesan priorities including pastoral documents for ethnic ministries, Hispanic education by the Southeastern Pastoral Institute, Catholic radio, the diocese’s response to sexual abuse by some church employees, purchasing property in Hilton Head for a future diocesan regional high school, the need for additional support of the St. Joseph Residence for retired priests, and the need to continue evangelization efforts in parishes.  

According to Lisa Rawlins, director of the Office of Planning and Synod Implementation, council members reviewed the revised diocesan pastoral vision statement and comments from priests at the deanery reviews.

“An overall comment was that the statement should be as functional and inspiring as possible so that every diocesan organization, office, committee, parish, mission and individual Catholic who reads it is encouraged to in some way do his/her part to help realize the vision,” Rawlins said.

With the vision statement complete, committees will begin the work of planning. The committee chairs will be given a due date for input from their committees so the diocesan pastoral council can review the goals at its next meeting.

Some of the issues brought to the bishop’s attention during the council meeting included one from Henry Lander, a resident of Hartsville, who suggested that the Bishop’s Stewardship Appeal was not supported enough at the parish level and that more should be done, such as sending a promotion kit with a thermometer to measure giving.

A written response was provided in advance by Michael Gocsik, secretary of Stewardship and Mission Advancement, and Bishop Baker also responded that the economy had impacted giving, as had the sexual abuse crisis, and yet the diocese still had major expenses to meet.

William Meany from Myrtle Beach asked if the diocese could provide a forum for responding to the sexual abuse crisis. He said that many Catholics aren’t aware of what was being done to respond.

Bishop Baker said that many diocesan ministries had been impacted by cutbacks resulting from the withholding of support stemming from perceptions of how the church had handled the sexual abuse crisis. The bishop also gave a report on the positive results of the recent audit of the diocese by representatives from the USCCB Office of Sexual Abuse.

Other council actions included the addition of a communications committee to the diocesan planning effort and the inclusion of a list of all pastoral members and their e-mail addresses on the diocesan Web site.  Council members will accept e-mails and bring these concerns to the committees.

Rawlins presented the 1993 document “Recommendations for Parish Pastoral Councils in the Diocese of Charleston” and asked for consideration to update the document to reflect input from the Synod.

The council’s next meeting with the bishop will be in October.