St Francis of Assisi -
Christ the King -
The first Parish Advisory Council was formed under Father Peter Wilkie in 1972, when the Bishop requested every parish to establish one. Members included Betty Kirkham, Charlie McDonald, Dick McDonald, Wilfred Thomason, Alison Thomas, Doug Padfield and John Fernee (Chairman). It was soon agreed that what the parish needed to form a stronger community was for the priest to live in a new presbytery beside St Francis Church. Wilfred Thomason, an architect by profession, drew up plans, with a cost estimate around £11,000. This was a major amount, and many ideas were considered as to how to raise the money.
At one PAC meeting (at 17 First Avenue) Bishop Langton Fox arrived, no doubt not by accident. He strongly supported the project, and said that if we could raise £ 1,000, then he would double it, and lend the balance to enable an immediate start on construction. At the time there were about 90 families in the parish, so on average the required amount was £11 per family. It was decided that PAC members would visit every family in the parish to explain what was needed. As a result, with some very generous donations, over £1,000 was quickly raised, and the presbytery was completed in 1974. Unfortunately by that time Fr Wilkie had moved on, and his successor, Fr Bill Daly, was the first to enjoy the convenience and comfort of the new presbytery.
The Parish Advisory Council continued to work with successive parish priests. Father Owen Hardwicke ensured that each village community within the boundaries of the parish had a representative. A significant achievement of the PAC during Father Hardwicke's time was its commissioning of a "Strategy Group" of six parishioners who met regularly over the course of a year to discuss the future development of the parish. The group presented a written report, supported by a display in the hall, which made recommendations about key areas of parish life. One Friday evening in May 1995, members of the PAC were summoned by Father Hardwicke to be at the hall "in thirty minutes!" It transpired that Bishop Edwin had heard of the display and report and was calling in on his way home from Lourdes and before setting off the following morning to Cardiff. Such a response, and the lively discussion with the Bishop that ensued, provided a great spur to further action, and many of the recommendations have, over time, become part of life in the parish today.
With Father Adrian Wilcock's arrival, the PAC became more streamlined, due in part to the effective operation of specialist groups with responsibility for finance, property and liturgy. The constitution of the present PAC states that there should be "8 – 12 members, representing as far as possible the different parish organizations, geographical areas and age groups", and the eleven members of the PAC in 2001 bear this out. Members serve for three years to enable rotation of membership, and the Council meets four times each year. On the Sunday following each meeting a one page bulletin "News from the PAC" is distributed at Masses. The PAC has a lay chairman and vice-
The constitution also states that "the function of the PAC is to deal with the mission of the Church, long range and short range goals and objectives, and to assist in the design of those procedures and processes by which the pastoral work of the Church is to be accomplished".
So a typical meeting might discuss sacramental preparation for children and adults, ecumenical activities, pilgrimages, our link with Sumy in the Ukraine, and any special projects, as well as the "procedures and processes". Even these are not the dull bureaucracy that they sound, but are to do with, for example, training of lay people for parish ministry; ensuring that the two churches operate smoothly and offer a welcome to newcomers, visitors, and existing parishioners; and improving communications within the parish. For specific tasks the PAC will convene a working group for a fixed time period, for example to follow up the Diocesan Congress of 2000 within the parish, and membership will include both members of the PAC and other parishioners.
St Francis Parish Advisory Council has, over the years, demonstrated the positive role of lay people working together with the parish priest in developing the spiritual life of the parish.