Question about Diocesan Priests

Hi! I know this is probably a dumb question, but I haven’t been able to find an answer elsewhere. Do diocesan priests stay in the same diocese forever? For example, I live in the diocese of Charleston (SC). If I were to be ordained in this diocese, would I be stuck in South Carolina forever?

Unless you are released by your Bishop, as far as I know, yes, you would work in South Carolina forever.

You can also join a diocese other than the one in which you reside. I was residing in one diocese, and entered formation for another. There is a requirement canonically and in the particular law of most dioceses that you establish residence for a certain period, however.


Yes, this is the norm. Ordination for a diocese means that your superior will always be the local Bishop, and you will be subject to him. So, of course there are exceptions. Bishops choose to allow their priests to teach at seminaries in other diocese, to spend time as military chaplains, or to serve in positions in the Vatican. Be aware, however, that this is very much the exception, not the rule. In our diocese of over 200 priests, we have 2 priests in Rome, and a couple former military chaplains who have since returned to the diocese.

If the thought of being in your diocese for life doesn’t appeal to you, ask yourself why. Perhaps you generally feel that you would do better work somewhere that’s not so close to home. Then you may want to talk to your vocation director about that, or contact a vocation director in a different diocese. If you feel that God may be calling you to a kind of priesthood that is not tied to a particular diocese, you may want to consider religious orders that do more widespread work, or even missionary work. Know also, though, that sometimes our reasons for wanting to get away from home may not be pure, vocational signs. Keep praying, and God will help you figure this situation out :slight_smile: Hope this helps a bit.

In Christ through Mary,

Yes, the norm is that when ordained for a diocese you remain in that diocese. However, you can receive permission from the bishop to perform some kind of ministry outside the diocese or even “transfer” to another diocese.

The priesthood is a sacrificial life; therefore, one’s own preferences, including those as to where one would prefer to reside. One gives that preference up to the will of the Bishop.


Transfers of diocese are by no means unusual, though – my parish priest was ordained and served in one diocese, spent many years as a principal of a Catholic high school in a second diocese, went to Rome for a few years for further study, and transferred into his third diocese several years ago. However, it may not always be your choice when and where you get transferred.

It can be more complicated than that though.

I know a local priest who is actually incardinated in a different diocese (in a different province), who has been “loaned” to our diocese for at least the past decade.

While it’s by no means unheard of, I would say it is unsual at this period in time for a priest to transfer…as in, it’s not a usual, common situation. Most dioceses are somewhat short of priests, and so bishops are rather reluctant to have their priests transfer. Again, for certain ministries or good reasons, this does happen. But it is by no means something to be expected in the life of the average diocesan priest. An overwhelming majority of diocesan priests will serve and die in the diocese in which they are ordained.

In Christ through Mary,

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