An Archdiocesan Pastoral Council has been formed by Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory to allow him to see and hear what is going on in the archdiocese. The meetings of the council are a time to hear the issues. No topic should be off limits; however, some things cannot be changed, the archbishop noted.

Archbishop Gregory also stated that the council should be educational. Since people don’t always agree, the council members will share their opinions and desires; and should the archbishop say no, he give an explanation why he made that decision. The concerns of the council should be broad based about the life of the archdiocese rather than an individual/school acceptance/clergy problems, etc. Focus issues should be forwarded directly to the appropriate department.

The archbishop was asked what kinds of things should come before the council. Archbishop Gregory said that he used the councils in his other dioceses to present initiatives, to review things and to evaluate. Also, he desires that the executive committee of the Council will meet with the Priest’s Council. Hopefully, this will happen four times a year. He stated that this is an opportunity to have the two councils share the things they are doing.

An pastoral council executive committee has been chosen for a one-year term. Timothy J. Buckley, III and Alan Talley were selected as members. Deacon Dennis Dorner, chancellor, noted that Archbishop Gregory is the chair of the council and of the executive committee.

Archbishop Gregory remarked that the council is made up of strong, well-educated and active Catholics. He says that meeting with this group is like having a conversation with the archdiocese. There are 23 members of the council including people from all areas and cultures of the archdiocese. Meetings are held quarterly on Saturdays.

Council Members

First Name Last Name City Parish
Ifeanyi Anikpe Powder Springs St. Paul of the Cross
Rod Arion Peachtree City Holy Trinity
Abigail Arthur-Chillman Alpharetta Saint Briigd
Tom Badger Roswell St. Ann
Jean Bertrand Bishop St. Joseph, Athens
Timothy J. Buckley III Atlanta Immaculate Heart of Mary
Ed Fischer Atlanta CTK
Frania Franch Marietta Transfiguration
Robert Frey Cumming Good Shepherd
John Hargaden Milledgeville Sacred Heart, Milledgeville
Reverend Eric Hill Flowery Branch St. Peter and Paul
S. Benjamin Houston Decatur Sts. Peter & Paul
Bill Hughey Conyers St. Pius X, Conyers
Reverend Mr. Hilliard Lee Jr. Atlanta St. Paul of the Cross
Stephen Lam Atlanta Holy Name of Jesus Chinese Catholic Mission
Betty Martin Jefferson St. Catherine Labore
Reverend Ignacio Morales Cumming Good Shepherd
CC Nguyen Snellville HVM  Norcross
Roderick Padilla Suwanee Our Lady of the Americas
Celeste Prier Stone Mountain Christ Our Hope
Brenda Sharman Woodstock St. Peter Chanel
Sister Louise Sommer CSJ Atlanta Atlanta Conference of Sisters
Chris Strigle Roswell Saint Brigid
Mary Struebing Emerson St. Francis, Cartersville
Alan Talley Carrollton Our Lady of Perpetual Help
Lee Toole Alpharetta St. Thomas Aquinas
Pam Zander Roswell St. Ann

Understanding the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council

by Susan Burroughs

“Susan, can you tell us about the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council and what it is that you do?” I was asked this at a pastoral council meeting for my parish. As I looked around our table, I found all eyes focused on me. I must admit, I felt a little uncomfortable as this was not an agenda item and I had not made preparations to speak about the APC. I contemplated how I could be brief while at the same time provide this group with information about the role of the APC and how it affects them. I began by sharing how the APC was formed, our general composition, and what we are expected to do. At one point our pastor interjected, “They (members of APC) are to do the same work that you do for the parish, only for the archdiocese.” I said, “You have put it succinctly”.

Earlier this year, Archbishop Gregory announced that as part of his mission to implement ways to serve the needs of the people in our archdiocese, he wanted to establish an Archdiocesan Pastoral Council (APC). The Archbishop had a council when he served in the Diocese of Belleville and found it to be very beneficial. Pastors throughout the Atlanta Archdiocese were asked to submit the names of possible candidates to serve on the APC.

Beginning in February, discernment sessions designated by deaneries were held with the candidates. After Mass and an overview of the purpose of the APC, time was allowed for personal reflections and sharing with the group. In the end, the candidates recommended a person they believed would be a good representative to serve on the APC. In addition to individuals selected by this process, the Archbishop appointed other members. On March 31, 2007 the 27-member Atlanta Pastoral Council was commissioned.

The APC is a consultative body to our Archbishop. We are a multi-cultural group of young, middle-aged and older adults, representing small to mid-size parishes as well as very large parishes. Our group is comprised of priests, deacons, a nun, and several lay members. Our purpose is to work with the Archbishop to address religious, social and economic issues related to pastoral concerns within our Archdiocese.

“Working with” the Archbishop is an operative term. During our first official meeting with Archbishop Gregory, we (the APC) were seated around the conference table when he entered the room. I was most impressed by what he did next. Rather than take a seat at the head of the table, he took a seat on the side–in the middle of the group. I expected him to greet us, provide a synopsis of his vision for the APC, offer a few words of encouragement, and leave. To my surprise, he stayed throughout the day–from the celebration of Mass until the end of our meeting several hours later. This served as an affirmation to us that he intended to be a full participant and was ready to hear what we felt were the concerns of our people. After all, the Archbishop told us, “Meeting with this group (for him) is like having a conversation with the people of the archdiocese”.

Upon learning that I had been selected to be a member of the APC, I was consumed with a myriad of questions, such as, How can such a small group of people effectively address the needs of so many? What will be expected of us as a Council? Am I capable to do the work? Some answers came to me during our initial group meeting. One of our presenters shared, “The Holy Spirit brings us together to work and plan for the good of the diocese.” Another stated that “We are all called to holiness, whether clergy, religious or laity.” Being reminded that the Holy Spirit is in charge gave me a calming sense of relief. I simply needed to be the willing servant that I am–the Holy Spirit will handle the rest.

As Chair of the APC, Archbishop Gregory also serves as chair of our Executive Committee. The other two members of the Executive Committee were selected in a most egalitarian way–we simply placed all our names in a container from which the Archbishop drew two slips of paper. The Executive Committee meets several times a year with the Executive Committee of the Priest’s Council to talk about agenda items and avoid duplication of efforts. We have established terms of office for APC members and are planning how to effectively communicate with parishes and deaneries. An APC web site is being developed to assist with our communications initiative.

Being a member of the APC is a humbling experience. I feel a strong sense of responsibility to serve as a voice for the people of the archdiocese of Atlanta. Whenever I am with members of our greater Atlanta church in whatever setting, my ears have been more attuned to listening–something I plan to continue to do. When the APC convenes for quarterly meetings, it my sincere desire that before I say a word, I will think of you and remember that I speak for you.

Our work as your Archdiocesan Pastoral Council has only just begun. Assuredly, as time passes and we learn more, it will be revealed to us how we can best represent you. Pray for us as we pray for you as we all share our talents, time and treasures in service to our church.

Susan Burroughs is a parishioner of St. John the Evangelist Church in Hapeville. This article was originally published in the Winter 2007/2008 issue of Parish Connection, the quarterly newsletter of the Office for Black Catholic Ministry.

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