How does a parish decide upon a Pastor?

*I was curious about something. When we visited Pgh last summer, we went to our prior parish’s summer festival. I bumped into a few old parishioners, and they explained to me that the prior Pastor had been ‘reassigned’ to another parish in the area, and they had a new one. I thought it curious that they didn’t ‘‘promote’’ (not sure of the right word?) the other priest that had been there for years, and was such a gem! He ran the religious ed programs for many of the Catholic schools in the entire area…so I was surprised they brought someone completely new in to ‘take over’ the place of the prior Pastor.

So…thought I’d ask here…how does a parish decide upon a Pastor? Why do you suppose the priest who had been there for years (he is in his 40’s) wasn’t selected to be? *

The Bishop of the Diocese makes all priestly assignments with recomendations from the personnel committee.

The Bishop decides. Before our priest retired over a year ago they put out word that our parish would be needing a pastor (I saw the list when I was working in the office and we joked that we couldn’t really expect anyone to “apply” when we were up against parishes in Tahoe that needed a pastor) and then when no one applied the Bishop called an associate pastor at another parish and “requested” that he take over at our parish as the pastor (for six years).

Priests are usually assigned to a parish for a set term – in my diocese that term is 6 years. At the end of 6 years the bishop may allow the priest to stay for another 6-year term, or the bishop may assign him to another parish. The usual way in my diocese is most priests stay for 2 terms (12 years).

An Associate Pastor usually is assigned by the bishop to be a head Pastor when he begins a new term at a new parish. I have never heard of an Associate Pastor becoming a head Pastor at the same parish.

Also, I’ve heard that when a priest knows that he is up for re-assignment, he can preference a parish. So, even though (hopefully) a priest will be happy serving God at any parish, it’s possible that the one assigned to your parish is one who asked to be there.

Yes, the Bishop decides. That’s how we got a pastor who didn’t want to be our pastor and who made that perfectly clear – as in “I didn’t want to be pastor here but the Bishop insisted.”

The parish fell apart in the 4 years he was pastor and there was much work to do for his successor – who also would rather be somewhere else but hasn’t made it as obvious and who has worked really hard to get the parish work again. Unfortunately, it’s almost 80% certain that the former pastor will be reassigned to us when this present one leaves. Oh joy.

I guess I should know this. :blush: That explains why some were not happy about the choice. Not that they didn’t like the new Pastor, but like I said, the priest that had been there for so long, seemed like he would be the perfect fit to lead the parish. The thing I wonder about is if he had too many non parish commitments…and that is why they selected a completely new priest to lead the parish. Thank you for answering me, all. Now I know. :slight_smile:

It can be a big challenge of faith and humility for both a parish and a new pastor when these changes happen.

Hopefully the parishoners are praying for the new pastor, and he is praying for his new parish for the success of both.

In our diocese, another factor is the amont of work in a parish. Some smaller parishes make it possible for retired priests to continue to serve way past retirement age if they are willing and their health permits. Some diocese have seasonal churches in tourist areas that only need someone during the busy season. Again great for a retired priest.:thumbsup:

You have to remember that the Bishop knows who is specifically trained in different things. That priest may have been an expert in school administration or education not pastoral responsibilities.

Just like in public schools, not all assistant principals one day become principals, not all assistant pastors become pastors. Some simply do not have the ability to do so (especially where managing a budget is concerned), and some do not wish to become pastors, as this involves many more responsibilities.

However, in my diocese at least, there are not enough priests to allow priests to remain Associates indefinitely. Many parishes have just one priest. Of those that have two, the Associate Pastor is either 1) newly ordained and will be an Associate for 4 years; after that, he will be assigned head Pastor at a new parish, or 2) a retired priest. In my diocese, it is rare to have an non-retired, not-newly-ordained priest as an Associate Pastor.

*yes, that makes sense. Had we remained in Pgh, I might have felt the same way though…I adored this priest who was in charge of religious education…he was very special. Most priests I have known are special, but this one…he just had a very humble way about him that was inspiring. *

In some dioceses there are no terms. In my former parish, the pastor has been the pastor since 1982; in another the pastor has been there for twenty years.

There are two ways that this is done.

  1. If the parish is run by diocesan priests the bishop does the assigning with the help of the personel office.

  2. If the paris is run by a religious community, the major superior assigns the pastor, but he must get the approval of the local bishop since all parishes belong to the bishop.

There is no ladder. In some states there are bishops conferences. In those states that have a bishops’ conference, the conference makes the rules on how the assignments are to be done. This allows for some uniformity in the region. These rules are made by mutual agreement between the bishops of the region.


Br. JR, OSF :slight_smile:

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