Comfort My People — The priest assignment process

Archbishop Shelton J. Fabre

As is usual, a number of our parish communities will be experiencing changes because of new priest assignments in June. I want to assure you that the annual effort to come up with a slate of new assignments for priests is one of the responsibilities that challenges and humbles me as a bishop. 

This is one of the responsibilities to which I give much prayer, consultation, reflection and discussion. Because of its significance, I would like to share a few thoughts concerning the assignment of a priest to a parish.

First, I want to sincerely thank our beloved priests who so willingly accept new assignments when proposed to them. I am deeply grateful to our priests who always seek to respond to the best of their ability when asked to take on a new ministry or service in a new parish community. Priests share in the priesthood of Jesus Christ, and as such, it is Jesus Christ that we preach and not ourselves. I thank them for their overwhelming willingness to respond to pastoral needs and accept new assignments.

Next, I want to sincerely thank the people of God for the affection you have for those who serve as priests. When I hear from people about the transfer of a priest serving their parish, I know that it roots itself in the love that you have for the priests who serve you and in the support that you give to your parish. I do not take these things for granted, and I am deeply grateful.

Now, let me share with you some of the more practical aspects of making priests’ assignments each year. The annual process for priests’ assignments begins during the fall months when each priest receives and completes a form that states his thoughts about retiring, if he is retirement age, or his desire to possibly remain in his current assignment or to request a possible new assignment. 

The vicar for priests, Very Rev. Anthony Chandler, along with the members of Priests’ Personnel Board, receive and compile this information for discussions that take place over the course of the winter months regarding the coming summer assignments.  

The Priests’ Personnel Board, with priest members from around the archdiocese, keenly familiarize themselves with the pastoral needs in archdiocesan parishes as well as the desire of each priest from the information that the priest himself provides. Along with the vicar for priests and the Priests’ Personnel Board, I spend several months discerning, discussing and praying about the best way to attempt to meet the pastoral needs of all the parishes as well as the requests of the priests. After many meetings and ongoing discussions, the Priests’ Personnel Board communicates final recommendations to me in the spring, and then I make the final decisions about the assignments. 

I assure you that it is not my desire, the desire of the vicar for priests or the desire of the Priests’ Personnel Board to upset or to destabilize any parish. Our only desire is to respond to the pastoral needs of the people of God throughout the archdiocese with the priests available to provide the most comprehensive pastoral ministry to all. None of us involved in this important process takes this responsibility lightly, and we rely on the help of God and the guidance of the Holy Spirit to make the best decisions that we can.

It was not so long ago that I was a pastor in a parish. I know firsthand how transitions in parish life affect parish families. I know that it challenges priests, parishioners and parish communities. I ask your prayers for all priests and parishes in transition this month as priests move to new assignments.  

If you have a priest that is departing for a new assignment, I pray that you will express gratitude for his ministry. If you are receiving a new priest in your parish, I pray that you will welcome him and be open to his many gifts and approaches to pastoral ministry. 

Ultimately, I fully believe that if we keep our focus on Jesus Christ, the High Priest, we can integrate these transitions in our lives, grow in relationship with one another and continue in our journey of discipleship with Jesus Christ. As I also assure you of my prayers for you, I ask your kind prayers for me.

The Record
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