As the Second Vatican Council came to a close, parishes all over the world adapted and changed to reflect the new expectations for a modern church of the People of God. St. John Vianney Parish hired a lay theologian and set about re-organizing the parish. Below is a transcript of the documents created at that time. It describes a parish very different than our parish today but also very different than the parishes of the previous generation.

(This document was created around 1964 for St. John Vianney Parish and transcribed by Ellen Turner in August, 2015 so the parish would not lose this history.)

The Parish of St. John Vianney

San Jose, California


Our Lord Jesus Christ says to us today:

“I am the Way, the Truth and the Life”—

If we would truly follow Christ —that is, be vital Christians —

We must

—Pray always for a living Faith in Christ, our Way;

—Seek ever to increase our knowledge of Christ, the fullness of Truth;

—Imitate Christ in all our daily living, because only in Him, as his members,
do we possess Life.

St. John Vianney Parish Plan for Christian Belief, Life, Worship, Love

________________________________A Living Parish________________________________



“Why change?” “Shy upset things?” “What’s wrong with our parish just as it is?” These are questions some people might very well ask. The answer is not a simple on. Few of us like to change just for the sake of changing – and certainly that is the farthest thing from your pastor’s mind or wish. We live in a complex, fast-moving world; one in which we must be ever alert to live our witness to Christ in accord with the character and needs of our day. This does not mean that the ancient, vital truths of the Faith are changing: rather it means that we recognize intelligently our joy and responsibility in showing the Christ-life that is in us in such a way that modern man is caused to ask, “Why are these Christians so different?” , and so may come to love and live in Christ as we do.

It has been said that the central problem of modern man is loneliness; it has also been said that Catholics are aloof, self-satisfied. Surely it is true that, in a large parish, it is a real and continuing difficulty to build and sustain the personal involvement and contact and concern that should, by definition, a basic sign of any Christian community. The changes we propose to make our parish life are intended to help us do just that: live the Christian life and show forth Christ-in-us more effectively.

By your Baptism you became a member of Christ’s Body, sharing in His Priesthood as one of a “royal race”. These changes in our Christian community life offer you a splendid opportunity to fulfill your Christian destiny. Surely you will hear and heed Christ’s call – to YOU – NOW.


For many reasons – historical, social, economic – most of us have grown up as Catholics in large parishes where we sort of fell into step in a life and a kind of operation that has given increasing cause for distress to many of our bishops, priests and lay people. Briefly, because the priest is – as he must be – the heart and center of any Catholic community, we gradually came to exhibit a distorted idea that “if it has to do with religion, it is work for the priests and nuns”. In many instances, we forgot our personal Christian heritage, task, responsibilities. We even came to act, at least, as though being a Catholic was a lot like membership in a lodge: show up for the “ceremonials”, keep an eye on the rules, pay dues when you must – but don’t get “fanatical” about it (like making religion a living, seven-day-week affair).

This situation has had many sad consequences. Most important, many of us have never grown up or matured in our Faith; the world about us remains (throught our fault?) non-Christian. We have, man of us, failed to taste the tremendous joys of the full Christian life. What can we do about it?


Well, here as in every other historic time in the life of God’s Church, the Holy

Spirit guards and leads the people of God. You all know how the saintly Pope John XXIII called for an “aggiornamento” (an updating) in our Christian life. The Council which he called into being has already given us great guidance toward a renewal, a freshening of the Christian life and spirit. It is called the “Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy” and deals with the way in which we, together, worship God.

This is the first area of change in our parish life during this Fall of 1964. In accord with the mind and expression of the Church, made known to us by the successors of the Apostles as our Divinely appointed teachers, we of the Christian community of St. John Vianney will make the changes in our manner of worship and common response to God’s love which are prescribed. These changes may at first seem strange and, perhaps, be a little disliked. Yet they are intended to show the Holy Sacrifice – Banquet of the Mass and our coming together in worship as the wonderful occasions they really are by giving us all the real sense of participating in the mysteries of Faith. They will be introduced gradually and explained carefully in detail. We ask only that you open your mind and spirit and give them a fair chance – in a year or two, see how you will value their worth in your spiritual life!


Another area of our Christian community life that will be affected by change is the organizational structure within ou parish. Two major objective are a the root of it:

  1. To offer the widest possible participation in parish Christian life, so that all may share in an active demonstration rather than passive acceptance of Christ’s teaching;
  2. By means of that total participation to achieve many goals in our parish life which would otherwise be impossible.

As with so many things, the essential ideas underlying the parish organizational changes are simple; the difficulty lies in putting them to work properly. We will surely make some mistakes – but if we all know and believe in what we are trying to do, we shall, with God’s grace, bring about wonderful growth in our Christian community life. It will all take prayer, work and good-will on the part of each one of us.

Let’s start with the fact that your pastors are, as the word itself shows, spiritual shepherds, dispensers of the life and goodness of God that we know as the Sacraments; but that should not mean that the flock does not share in the community life! Our goal is to see every Christian in our Parish demonstrating his love for Christ and his brothers in action. There are so many tasks which are presently left undone, untouched – yet which are crying out to us to be done:

—visiting the sick and distressed

—Sharing our Faith with those who have none;

—Welcoming newcomers to our parish;

—Helping to return lapsed Catholics to the Sacraments, the practice of their Faith;

and many, many others – which, my dear people we can do if we will.

Any Catholic parish plant belongs to the several generations of the faithful who will use it and find in it their spiritual home. It is surely proper then, that we should all together build it, care for it, and see to its full, appropriate use and development.

The parents of children in our schools, (whether parochial or the School of Religion) should be interested and engaged in more than purely school activities; but those who do not happen to have children in the parochial school or the School of Religion should nonetheless have care and concern for our school and school problems.

For these and additional good reasons in tune with our times, we have outlined the new parish organizational structure in the next section. Now, step by step, we shall approach the great task of making that chart a living reality. This will call for the time and special talents of all in St. John. Thus we shall, each of us, have the opportunity to make the most precious gift of all: the gift of ourselves, as member of Christ’s Body, to God Who gives us all we are, possess, or hope to be.


Most of you already know that, as a part of this whole parish re-organization, we hope to eliminate all the annoying secondary and nickel-and-dime methods of parish financing in favor of a single, budgeted Offertory Gift to God. Not only does this plan eliminate many time consuming activities and concentrate the expenditure of time and ability in more fruitful tasks, but it shows forth our financial support of the Church for what it truly is – an act of worship; a “thank you” lovingly given to God in grateful response for all the gifts He has and is giving to us. So far, many faithful parishioners have promised a regular use of the Offertory envelopes; many others have not yet done so. Moreover, new parishioners are constantly moving in. There will be needed a continuing system of informational visits, so that all in the parish may share as their circumstances allow, in the basic parish financial program. If all who can do so contribute the suggested 5% of taxable income, and all others do what they are conscientiously able to do our parish will be on a sound fiscal basis and we can get about our real task of spreading the Kingdom of God through our life and actions.


One part of the value of a parish structure such as we now set forth to build is this set of advantages:

  1. It will centralize, intelligently, all the financial aspects of parish operation and provide for
    1. Appraisal of needs;
    2. Fixing priorities;
    3. Budgeting;
    4. Provision of funds.
  2. Is should help to minimize duplication and overlap of efforts diffusion of valuable time and talent.
  3. It will, God helping, assist us to achieve an integrated parish that is an effective, organic whole in which all the parts are interrelated, rather than a situation in which a multitude of small, diverse groups are working in isolated fashion – often at cross-purposes.

To accomplish this, we need to know, as to each of the parts on the organizational chart,

  1. What is its function?
  2. How does it relate to the other parts

Let us attempt a statement of these points as to each segment of our parish structure.

  1. Our Archbishop – is the President, or presiding priest of our parish, as of every parish in the Archdiocese; he is the successor of the Apostles, the brother in Christ of St. Peter’s successor, Pope Paul VI. He appoints our Pastor and is our teach and guide in the Faith.
  2. Our Pastor – is the especially commissioned priest – representative of the Archbishop to whom is entrusted, under the Church’s laws, the spiritual care and responsibility for every living person within the confines of our parish. By his office, he is a member of every organization in the parish and upon him rests the burden of seeing that all parish activities properly work together toward the successful accomplishment o the Christian mission of all of us, together and individually.
  3. Our Assistant Pastors – are also especially appointed by the Archbishop to help our pastor in the performance of all his duties outlined above.
  4. Our Sisters – are given, by their Superiors, the mission of helping the pastor in his overall duties and specifically of teaching, sanctifying and guiding the children of the parish schools (whether St. John Vainney School, the School of Religion or the released-time catechetical schools) to an understanding and living of the full destiny of Christian in this life and in eternity.
  5. Our Parish Staff – whether lay theologian, secretaries, housekeepers, custodial or other, are in the service of the people of St. John Vianney, at the direction of the pastor, in order to fulfill the parish mission intelligently and effectively. Here it is well to recall that God measures the worth of any task by different standards than the world; in God’s eyes, in Christ’s teaching there is no such thing as a “lowly” or “menial” or “trivial” work; rather, the value of every work of every Christian is measured by the kind of intention with which we approach it and the spirit in which we do and offer it, conforming to our Christian dignity and mission. We remark this because sometimes parishioners may think their work in the apostolate is “not worth very much”. This is simply not true!Here, because the program is so new to our day (although old in the life of the Church), a word may be added about our lay theologian. He is a graduate of the Institute f Lay Theology at the University of San Francisco, assigned to St. John Vianney at your pastor’s request. The pastor – and all of us as Christians – are responsible for carrying Christ to all who live around us, not simply to other Catholics. Our lay theologian conducts the Catholic Information Series and the Christian in the World Course for all who are interested – Catholic, non-committed, or interested non-Catholic. He also conducts full-time instruction and counseling (sic) services apart from the Courses but resulting form the Courses. Not for a moment may we forget that we must show forth Christ to all our neighbors in order that we may all be one in Him.
  6. Our Parish Council – is a new and immensely important part of parish life; it is the basic means by which we hope to reach out into every corner of our parish and draw everyone into a deeper understanding of his Christian dignity and mission and into the tangible expression of that mission in deed and truth.The Council will be made up of representative members of the parish, meeting on a regular but not burdensome schedule to discuss parish affairs, draw up plans and see those plans to a fruitful conclusion. It will definitely not be merely a fund-raising vehicle, though it will, through the Finance Committee, have concern for parish financing on a continuing basis. It will not be a “yes, father” group, since its function is to originate, plan and provide for the execution of means by which our whole parish may live the Christ-life more truly and more adequately. The Council will be the parish consultative body for our pastor, who is of course its Chairman ex-officio.

The Council, as a policy-making body, will deal with:

  1. Parish educational activity: St. John Vianney School, the School of Religion, Adult Education.
  2. “Christ’s Workshop” (parish plant) upkeep and developmet;
  3. Parish financing;
  4. Supervision of our “little parishes”;
  5. Supervision of parish organizations and activities;

Membership on the parish council will be on a rotating basis in order to prevent over-loading any one person, to spread the benefits of membership among more parishioners and to maintain continuing stability and experience on the Council.

  1. Our Education Committee –will, cooperating with the pastor and Sisters, and under supervision of the Council, deal with plans, regulations, financing, operations and problems of St. John Vianney School, the School of Religion, Released-time Instruction and Adult Education. In membership and principles of operation it will in general function similarly to its parent, the Parish Council.
  2. The Finance Committee – like the Education Committee, an adjunct of the Parish Council, the Finance Committee will have responsibility for cooperating with our pastor in planning, organizing and executing the Parish Budget Program, as well as the other elements of parish financial problems.
  3. Christ’s Workshop – is the apt description of the physical parish plant in which the Christian community worships, studies and works. This Committee of the Council works with our pastor to maintain and develop the parish plant and facilities to the best advantage of the total parish program.
  4. The “Little Parishes” – are geographical subdivisions of the parish, each under the specific leadership of a parishioner responsible to the Parish Council. The number of Little Parishes in St. John Vianney will be set by the Parish Council. The purpose, expressed in the name it to localize and break down manageably the tasks of identification assignment and supervision involved in the fulfillment of the parish mission, and to assure a continued contact and liaison between every corner of the parish and the church community as a whole. The “Little Parishes” can later also serve as bases for neighborhood parish meetings (Guilds for liturgical and charitable activities, and so on); they will serve to accomplish more effectively a living contact between people and parish; to draw more persons into parish life; to discover hidden talents; to further the spiritual formation of our people; to help us gain a surer knowledge of “the state of our union”; to discern problems and care for them.
  5. The Men of St. John’s – is the overall designation under which are grouped, by activity, the recognized public organizational efforts of all our men. There are many advantages hoped for from this arrangement. One is the elimination of overlapping activities and outdated activities. Another is that a man may choose certain apostolic areas of effort, train and exercise his talents in them and then move to different activities if he so chooses – all within the framework of “the Men of St. John’s”. The three organizations – men’s – women’s – youth – all operate under the supervision of the Parish Council and with an appropriate government. First care will be given to spiritual formation of the members and then to designated apostolic and social activities.
  6. The Women of St. John’s – All the comments above apply here. It may be added that it is hoped one annual meeting can be held – perhaps a parish supper – purely as a social event for the men and women of our parish, at which men and women may offer a total report of the advances made in each area of parish life.
  7. The Youth of St. John’s – The comments above apply here too, with several additions: it may well be that we have heretofore attempted too often to engage our young people in a purely social atmosphere, with little success. Might it not be time to attempt a “Youth Council”, carefully selected and propose that it present to young people of St. John’s a choice of positive Christian projects designed to help needy persons Let the young people choose and work at projects they have voluntarily engaged themselves to achieve. Perhaps it might be well to start with jut a few hand-picked young people and let their excitement, enthusiasm and success attract others of their age group. There are, among the men and women of St. John’s, some skilled, devoted persons who are ready and willing to aid in this supremely important kind of effort.

One of the hoary old bug-a-boos of all parish activities – not to speak of many others! But let’s face the facts – we’ll never get away from meetings unless we become hermits. Even then, for all we know, there may be an Association of Hermits (if they’re Americans, you can be sure there is!).

Probably most of us don’t really resent meetings, though, if they accomplish something and are not held just because it’s the third Tuesday or second Wednesday, etc., of the month. That’s one objective of this parish re-organization: to cut down on meetings and to make those that are held more fruitful. Basically, we hope that as more parishioners are drawn into active apostolic parish life, meetings will resolve into –

  1. An annual parish get-together and report;
  2. Necessary regular meetings of the Parish Council, Education Committee, Finance Committee;
  3. Area or neighborhood contact for the various activities of the organizations, plus any necessary policy, planning or report sessions.
  4. Planned parish social events perhaps four or so a year, as the Parish Council may decide.

It is at least possible that, as your pastors are relieved of the necessity of attending purely routine meetings, they may become more available for consultation, advice and direction in the specific areas of activity to which our parishioners will be devoting their energies.


Appended is a graphic outline of the organization of the parish, showing us at a glance the new structure within which we hope to gather “the assembly of the people of God”, that is, all the members of Christ in our Christian community.


Also appended are various charts and lists showing the specific ways in which we shall exercise our Christian Mission, the specific activities in which the Men, Women and Youth of St. John will be engaged to show forth their commitment to Christ and His brethren, our neighbors.


My dear friends, there have been few ages of man more exciting to the Christian than the one we live in – and none more challenging. The Holy Spirit, through His Church – the Council, hierarchy and laity – through our neighbors, and through your own conscience, is calling upon you to take a new look at the ancient always-new Faith of Christ; to acquire a deeper understanding of what it means to be a member of Christ – and then to commit yourself and your life to Christ Our Lord and our Brother. If we respond to His call and His grace we can truly re-make the world form our parish. Your priest cannot accomplish this task – it is one for all of us praying and working together. Christ is counting on you – as your pastor, so am I Will you help?

Confidently, in Christ

Fred A. Cook, Pastor