Lay involvement brought new energy to the Church. Bishop John S. Cummins is joined by leaders of the Second Pastoral Convention in 1988.
Catholic VOICE FILE photo
Pastoral Council made diocese
a leader in giving laity a voice
When the first Diocesan Pastoral Council began its work in January 1985, among the 14 elected members was Penny Pendola, then principal of St. Paschal School in Oakland and, as The Catholic Voice noted, a lector, Eucharistic minister and master catechist.
Council members were elected by the more that 250 delegates to the diocesan pastoral convention, which met at what was then Holy Names College. Priorities set by those delegates included development of lay persons in pastoral, ministerial and liturgical leadership; youth and young adults; social justice; education and evangelization.
Today, Pendola is human resources director of the Diocese of Oakland. With that photo of the original council in front of her, she spoke about that first term of the council.
What were you doing at the time?
I was the pastoral co-administrator. In 1987-90, Leo (Rev. Leo Edgerly) and I were pastoral co-administrators. Then I was alone for eight months.
It was a wonderful opportunity, that, plus being on the council was quite exciting. The fact that I was involved in lay leadership on the council. It was an exciting time in the church. It was what I had hoped.
What made it exciting?
The fact that the laity really had a voice. We weren't just a perfunctory group. We had a very active diocesan pastoral council. This council met every month.
Where did you meet?
We met at St. Paschal's Convent, which was no longer a convent. It was a house of prayer for priests. It had two large conference rooms. We usually had lunch; it was usually a whole day meeting.
Were there working committees?
I was on the lay leadership committee of the group. We were working committees that would bring back our results to the group. At the end of the council, we had five goals that had been given to us at the diocesan convocation, which included lay leadership, social justice, youth and young adults. Those were a commitment of the diocese and parishes of the dioceses.
Bishop John Cummins really encouraged it. He was really a working part of the group. He was very supportive, wanting to know what each group was working on.
He attended these meetings?
Oh, yes. Everyone did. I recall very few absences. Convention was an all-weekend event, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. We had elections. That was how I was elected from my group. It was regional. Gesine Laufenberg was the president. She was wonderful. She had a real sense of what that group was to be.
What made it such a marvelous time?
It was all positive, looking toward the future. The laity wasn't angry at the clergy; the clergy wasn't protective of their role. We were all working together.
Accomplishments in developing lay leadership?
Parishes were encouraging their memberships to take active roles. At St. Paschal's, we had people who were really committed to the church and would take care of the altar care, but didn't think at all that they could be lectors or Eucharistic ministers. I remember one lady … she found out she could or both a lector and a Eucharistic minister. She became one of the chief Eucharistic ministers. She began to see her own power in contributing. She wasn't just dusting the altar. She could be more than that. She was proud of the fact that she was able to contribute in that way to the church. I think many, many more people began to take active roles. It wasn't a case of women vs. men, or 'I want to be a priest' but 'I can contribute as a lay person.'
Did people get more involved in parishes?
The pastoral council really grew from that point on. That was a commitment, I remember very distinctly, of Bishop Cummins that parishes were to have not only financial councils but pastoral councils — active pastoral councils, not just in name only.
Did you put on workshops?
I remember being at two or three. One in Los Altos, where we talked about what we were doing with lay leadership, with a large group of priests, I believe. I do know I was an example because of the role I had in the parish, with lay leadership happening. It was a very exciting time in the church. It has been wonderful for me to have been on the council, to have been the pastoral co-administrator of the parish, to have been DRE (director of religious education), to have been principal of the school, in the job I now I have. I have knowledge in all those areas. … It has been a great gift that way, too.
On being pastoral co-administrator
For me, being the pastoral co-administrator was the happiest job I had until becoming director of human resources, because I was helping people experience the presence of Jesus in their lives. I did a lot of the sick calls. I was with people when someone died. I loved being able to help people. I was able to help. That's what I loved. I loved to be able to minister to people, pray with people, that they accepted who I was. ... Lay people can help bring God. And that's what we're about: to know Jesus better and make him better known. I was very honored that I was on the first pastoral council, that I was part of the diocese at the inception of this, that I was there, 10 councils ago.