Parochial Vicar?

What is a parochial vicar?

Before mass starts they read the announcements and it always ends with:

If you have any questions, please see Father X our pastor, Father Z our parochial vicar, or J or pastoral associate after mass.

I was just wondering what a parochial vicar is? No one could seem to tell me, but I probably wasn’t asking the right people.

He does all the same stuff as Father X on the days that he celebrates mass.


Here’s an extensive article on the subject:

Basically, the pastor is the head of the church. The parochial vicar is basically an assistant pastor.

Here’s what canon law says:

“Parochial vicars are priests who render their services in pastoral ministry as co-workers with the pastor in common counsel and endeavor with him and also under his authority” (545.1).

Thanks. :thumbsup:

Why would one priest be called an associate pastor and another be called a parochial vicar in the same diocese? Does each diocese have a standard term for a priest serving at a parish who is not the pastor?

In our diocese most of the priests, who are not pastors,are parochial vicars. However, we have a few who are pastor emeritus and several who are in residence. The latter work in the diocesan offices but live in a parish and provide some sacramental services [usually say masses and hear Confessions] for the parish.

What is the difference between a parochial vicar and an associate pastor?

In our case about 10 years. That’s about how long ago we changed the term. :smiley:

But what is the difference in a diocese that uses both terms?

One is the Pastor, one is what used to be called the Associate Pastor now referred to usually as Parochial Vicar.

However, the Pastoral Associate is not usually a priest. Can be a Deacon or Religious or Lay Person. Someone who handles non sacramental issues for the Pastor; sometimes an administrator or supervisor but they are sometimes called Pastoral Associate.

“In your mercy keep us free from sin and protect us from all anxiety as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.”

Well, :wink: we would start calling the head priest the “boss” and the priest who are his subordinates the “junior” priests. We could go to a system that calls the parochial vicars apprentice and journeyman priests, depending how long they’ve been at the priest job.

The pastoral associate should be called a “civilian”. Deacons in this role could be called “semi-civilians”.

I recall only one parish in Baltimore using the term “Parochial Vicar,” and the pastor was a stuffy Englishman who may simply have preferred that term to “Associate Pastor.” That was about 20 years ago. I haven’t heard it here since.

Can somebody explain to me what a dean or deanery is? I’ve heard that term here on CAF, but not in Baltimore. Is it a Midwest thing?


A Deanery is an administrative division of a Bishoporic. It is not something you generally hear about as a lay person but I believe they exist in every diocese.

A deanery is a grouping of several parishes. In our diocese it consisists of about 8-10 parishes in a geographical area. One of the pastors acts as the dean. He is responsible for calling deanery meetings and also he has to check the parish sacramental registers once a year and installs new pastors.

The DREs and RCIA coordinators also use the deanery system for meetings wehre they gather together as a deanery to discuss their ministry.

That’s interesting. I don’t think we have them here in Balto. Surely after all these years I would have heard the term once or twice.


A parochial vicar is the canonical term for what most people call an associate pastor. Since Bishop Lennon has arrived, he wants all the associates to be called parochial vicars. At the parish where I am at, they have called their associates, parochial vicars for a number of years.

Fr. Bro.
Parochial Vicar

In our diocese, we used to have parishes grouped into vicariates. Then we got a new bishop, and we no longer have vicariates, we have deaneries. I’m not sure what the technical difference is between a vicariate and a deanery – it probably only makes a difference at the administrative level. But to a lay person in the pew, a vicariate or a deanery is just a subgrouping of parishes within the diocese.

The terms* deanery* and vicariate are often used interchangeably. In fact, a a priest who is a dean often has the letters V.F. after his name, which means vicar forane.

Our diocese has 3 Vicariates each headed by an auxilary bishop. The vicariates are further divided into deaneries headed by a pastor who serve a the dean.

it may be a situation where a priest who is a resident alien cannot be given a title that would indicate a permanent FT job classification becaouse of visa laws. He may reside in the rectory and assist with Sunday Masses, confessions etc., but not have anything to do with day to day running of the parish, as either pastoral or parochial vicar, because his “day job” is a chaplaincy or some other volunteer work, according to the terms of his visa.

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