Priests making sick calls outside their parishes?

How common is it for priests to make sick calls (emergency last rites, viaticum for the dying, etc.) outside of the geographical parish to which they are assigned?

Also, some priests actually live outside the territory of their parishes. As a practical matter, would they handle sick calls near their homes? A priest could live in a neighborhood outside their parish, and have neighbors who need their ministry, especially in an emergency. Would he take care of the sick call, or would a priest living in and assigned to the geographical parish be summoned instead?

I knew of one priest who served a suburban parish several miles out, yet lived in his own home in the inner city. I have to think this is not uncommon, especially where the parish does not have a rectory and the priest has to make his own living arrangements (perhaps receiving a monthly allowance to help pay for the house or apartment).

I got about 8 sick calls this week.* Four of them were in my territory, and four were outside it. This happens rather frequently, though to be fair, I’m in a large metropolitan area and the parish boundaries are very close. Our Church and rectory are only barely within the parish boundaries, strangely enough, and we’re roughly equidistant between the hospital actually within our boundaries and the main hospital campuses downtown.

What tends to happen is that a hospital chaplain will call the parish in whose territory is the hospital and ask for a priest, and if they can’t get him, they’ll call the next parish on the list. The laity calling directly will do this too; earlier this week I visited someone in the hospital in our own parish boundaries whose family had called two other parishes but were unable to get through.

I’m not sure what the thrust of your question is, i.e. is it allowed to make visits outside one’s territory, or what. But it happens all the time. I’ve had sick calls before where I had to drive through the territory of two or three other parishes to get to the hospital or nursing home I was being called to visit.


*This was an abnormally high number of sick calls for one week, even for our area. Something in the water, I guess. Usually it’s not more than 2 or 3.


That would be one question — “is it allowed?”. Obviously it is. The only wrinkle would be where a priest crosses into another diocese — does he need faculties (to hear confessions) from the bishop of that diocese, or are such faculties automatically supplied for emergencies?

I have also heard of cases, albeit long ago (1800s) where priests would balk on having to make sick calls outside their parishes — one such case was in rural Kentucky and the priest had to make a long journey on horseback. His reasoning was “that’s not my parish, let a priest from that parish do it instead”.

In case of an emergency, yes, faculties are supplied by the law. Though according to my pagella, the sheet which lists my faculties, it says that I am delegated the faculty to hear confessions anywhere in the world that I am not restricted from doing so. Hence, if I cross the state line and diocesan boundary (very close to my parish), I can validly absolve there, even without a grant of faculties from the Ordinary of that Diocese.

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When it comes to emergencies, the usual rules don’t’ apply - so even a priest without faculties could (and, indeed must) hear the confession of someone who’s dying. Officially, according to canon law, I shouldn’t do anoint in another parish without at least the presumed permission of the pastor there but this is really just about not doubling up and most priests I know wouldn’t have a problem so there’s no need to ask. Again, when it comes to emergencies - all bets are off!

Fortunately perhaps, travel options are a bit less restrictive these days! That said, I did come across a priest once as a deacon who wouldn’t go and anoint someone in the neighbouring parish - as another priest I asked about this put it: “when someone stands on parish boundaries, it’s code for ‘I can’t be bothered’”!

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