II.  Essential characteristics of a Parish (Pastoral) Council, as described in published guidelines by our diocese include:

1) A parish council is pastoral.  It attempts to provide resources and methods to serve the people of the parish as they engage in the mission of the church.

2) A parish council is representative.  It is a representative body that endeavors to listen to parishioners and then faithfully present expressed concerns, ideas and questions to the pastor so that faith needs are met.

3)  A parish council is enabling.  It endeavors to foster the spiritual growth of individual Catholics of the parish and the broader community; it challenges the parish to grow in response to the gospel.

4)  A parish council is collaborative; it challenges its members, the parish staff, committees, organizations and other groups within the parish to work together.  It then seeks ways to collaborate with other parishes, community organizations and congregations to foster the common good of the broader community.

III.  The Parish Council at St. Thomas Aquinas currently consists of 13 voting seats. Two are designated for students- a high school student who is appointed to a two year term by the Pastor and a UVa student (ex-officio the current President of the Catholic Student Ministry).  Eleven seats are elected by the members of the parish in an election generally held in mid/late October of each year, around the close of the Stewardship drive.  Each of these seats is held for a two year term; Parish Council members may be re-elected for one additional, consecutive two year term. Prerequisites for membership include being a registered, practicing, confirmed Catholic member of the parish and being an active participant in parish life, especially Mass and the Sacraments.

In addition to these thirteen voting members several ex-officio, non-voting members are part of the Council.  These include the Pastor and pastoral associates along with invited representatives from various other ministries within the parish (e.g. Youth Ministry, Worship Ministry, Finance Council).  Note that the Finance Council (required by Canon Law of every parish) is distinct from the Parish (Pastoral) council.  The Parish Council again has an advisory role in the formation of the budget and approves the final budget annually before it is sent to the Bishop.  A parishioner cannot simultaneously be a voting member on the Parish Council and the Finance Committee.

The Parish Council at St. Thomas Aquinas currently meets on the first Tuesday of each month and any parishioner may attend as an observer/guest.  The meetings generally last two to three hours and are run by a Chairman (or in his absence the Vice Chairman)- positions which are elected annually by the voting members of the Council shortly after the completion of the general Parish Council election referred to above.  In addition the Council holds an annual retreat, generally on a Saturday at a location away from the church.  At times (e.g. when new initiatives arise or at the request of the Pastor to explore an issue in more depth) Council members will be asked to serve on a time-limited subcommittee.  The time commitments for council members can range anywhere from 5 to 10 hours per month for Council, subcommittee and preparation tasks.

The Parish Council maintains a bulletin Board in the narthex of the church where important announcements are posted along with the minutes of each month’s meeting and the roster of current membership.