Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

National Advisory Council is ‘a microcosm of what one would find in the body of Christ’

by Bonita Lawhead, Inland Register staff

(From the Nov. 13, 2003 edition of the Inland Register)

Father Jim Kuhns, pastor at Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Spokane, is nearly at the end of a four- year term on the National Advisory Council, a group that reports to the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops. His term officially ends Dec. 31.

Its name – National Advisory Council – may sound generic, but the work it does is important. “We consider and respond to all the action items the bishops give to us,” said Father Kuhns. “In addition we also develop and consider issues we want to raise to the bishops.”

The council meets twice a year, prior to the USCCB general meetings, from Thursday evening through Sunday afternoon. When the council comes together, members are briefed on the issues and then meet in small groups to study them in more detail, making “recommendations, commendations, or changes. We don’t consider every item,” Father Kuhns said. “Some are just routine business.”

The small groups’ work is then considered by the whole council. There is a “profile vote,” which, explained Father Kuhns, allows council members to express varying degrees of approval or disapproval.

Members are “willingly bound to confidentially,” Father Kuhns said, “allowing them to speak their minds and hearts.” That confidentiality also extends to the issues discussed at the meetings; they are not taken beyond the group. “That leaves the bishops free” to do their work, Father Kuhns said.

NAC members rarely know how their work affects the bishops’ decisions. Once in while, though, said Father Kuhns, “we’ll see one of our revisions in one of their documents. Or we’ll hear how much the bishops appreciate our work.”

The council has been in existence for 35 years.

There are 46 members of the group. Lay members are chosen from 14 geographic areas in the United States. There are seven priests from alternating regions, and two bishops. Member terms last four years. The last member to serve from this area was Donna Hanson, Diocesan Director of Catholic Charities, who was on the council in the late1980s.

A wide range of ethnic groups and philosophical positions is represented on the council. Father Kuhns said the council’s purpose is to be representative of the church as a whole. “The bishops want to hear from a sample of Catholics from across the country,” he said.

One interesting note is that members of the council represent only themselves; they do not represent their parishes or any other group they might belong to.

Father Kuhns appreciated his time on the council. “I’m grateful to have served in one of the most profound experiences of Church I’ve ever been a part of,” he said. “There’s prayer, openness, a variety of outlooks and respect of the members for each other. It’s a microcosm one would find in the body of Christ.”

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