Q — When I read the article about clergy reassignments, I read that some are appointed as Pastors, some as Administrators, and some as Parochial Vicars. What are the differences in these assignments? Why are there differences?

A — This question may be tackled at two levels: the level of Canon Law, and what one might call the level of common sense. Since I am out of the diocese at the moment and, therefore, not at my desk, I don’t have access to the Code of Canon Law, and I am not by training a canon lawyer. So, I’ll attempt to answer the question at the level of common sense. A pastor is the one who, appointed by the bishop of the diocese, is the final authority and has the care of souls in his parish. A parochial vicar is a priest, more often than not recently ordained. He needs to learn the craft of wise leadership from a more seasoned priest, i.e., a pastor.

In many circumstances the parochial vicar will serve under more than one pastor, so that he may benefit from their years of experience and their cumulative pastoral wisdom. An administrator, at least as far as I understand the term, is responsible for a parish until a pastor is appointed.

In that interim the administrator fulfills all the duties and responsibilities of a pastor, but without that final juridical appointment.

All priests working in a parish, whatever their title, are appointed to serve the needs of the people in that parish so that their common witness as church, as Body of Christ, may continue to grow and to draw people into closer communion with God.