In January 2014 I was invited to join Archbishop Chaput’s Archdiocesan Pastoral Council for Philadelphia.

It’s common for parishes to have pastoral councils made up of people of various backgrounds to advise the pastor on how to strengthen their community’s life, but it’s still a pretty new concept for an Archbishop to create one to advise him on the larger level. Here’s the description I received when I joined:

The Archdiocesan Pastoral Council (APC) is Archbishop Charles J. Chaput’s 26-member advisory body on matters concerning the Greater Philadelphia Catholic community, including sacramental, educational, financial, organizational, legal, and legislative issues. APC recommendations are advisory in nature and are subject to the approval of the Archbishop.

The majority of what is discussed at these quarterly meetings is either confidential or implicitly private conversation.

Because the APC meets quarterly, I’ll have been a part of eight meetings by the time my two-year term is up in December. So far they’ve been rewarding, with topics ranging from the institutional and financial health of the Archdiocese to social and legal challenges.

A public mantra of Archbishop Chaput’s has been the need for do-ers to do things on their own rather than expect things to be run centrally through the Archdiocese itself. I think this makes the Archdiocese stronger in the sense that it removes the temptation for future Archbishops or leadership to repeat past mistakes like generally putting off strategic decisions or specifically raiding trusts, endowments, etc.

The short term pain is that creating the nonprofits, initiatives, and operational stability for independent organizations is pretty new to Philadelphians who mostly grew up expecting “The Church” (bishops/priests) to do it for them.

I think the APC is worthwhile primarily as a way to get its 26 members on the same page with the state of the entire Archdiocese rather than thinking solely about their own communities.

If that larger perspective trickles down to parishes, schools, nonprofits, etc. then all the better.