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Posted July 26, 2005

Book: Pastoral Care in Parishes Without a Pastor: Applications of Canon 517,2
Authors: Barbara Anne Cusack and Therese Guerin Sullivan, S.P.
Canon Law Society, The Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C., pp. 69

An Excerpt from the Book:

With the promulgation on January 25, 1983, the revised Code of Canon Law for the Latin Church came to life in the Church. In the more than ten years hence, the Church has, with more or less success, responded to the challenges of approaching the law with a “new way of thinking.” It may be when we are confronted with new ecclesiastical institutions that we most easily recognize ths need for this new mind-set. Changing conditions call for new ways of approaching our mission as Church.

The newly introduced canon 517, 2 is a clear example of an effort to respond to new and different challenges in the Church. With the realization that declining numbers of priests will affect the form and structure of parish ministry and pastoral care, an innovative approach has been introduced in this canon. Canon 517,2 states:

“If the diocesan bishop should decide that due to dearth of priests a participation in the exercise of the pastoral care of a parish is to be entrusted to a deacon or to some other person who is not a priest or to a community of persons, he is to appoint some priest endowed with the powers and faculties of a pastor to supervise the pastoral care.”

While this canon opens the door to a new style of parochial ministry, the law does not provide a well-defined plan for applying and implementing this canon. This is well and good! The variations among local churches throughout the world are such that a universal plan of action would hardly be applicable. Local culture, customs concerns must help to shape the direction that implementation of canon 517,2 will take.

. . .In deciding to compile these materials into a handbook, it is the hope of this committee that its contents will be useful to dioceses who are already implementing this new model of parish life as they evaluate future directions as well as to those who are just beginning to venture into this area.

An Excerpt from the Book:

Parish Director

In the absence of a pastor, canon 517,2 recognizes the possibility that women and men who are not ordained may be entrusted with a participation in the pastoral care of a parish.

Basic Definition

The parish director is a woman or man to whom a participation in the exercise of the pastoral care of a parish is entrusted. This care includes the following areas: education and pastoral services, worship, administration.

Qualifications/Eligibility of the Parish Director

The search for suitable candidates to fill the role of parish director in a particular parish ought to be based on a needs assessment of the parish. A variety of desired qualities and skills, demonstrated in academic achievement and established in ministerial experience should be used in the selection process. The selection process should evaluate:

Profession Qualifications

a. Priority should be given applicants who have:

1. A master’s degree in pastoral ministry, theology, scripture, liturgy, or a closely related field of religious study;

2. experience of three or more years in some phase of parish ministry (e.g., sacramental preparation, RCIA, catechesis, liturgy, spiritual direction, counseling);

3. at least one year working in the diocese;

4. background in sacramental rites, liturgy of the word and communion services, prayer, homiletics, canon law, tribunal processes, administration, team ministry, budgeting and finance.

b. Consideration may also be given applicants who have:

1. A bachelor’s degree in a field related to parish ministry;

2. experience of three or more years in some phase of parish ministry;

3. background in aspects of pastoral administration and a willingness to augment their basic education and to develop new skills.

c. By way of exception:

1. Educationally qualified applicants who lack practical experience may be asked to complete a one year supervised internship with appropriate remuneration as a prerequisite to official appointment by the bishops;

2. promising applicants wh lack necessary educational requirements may be accepted on a probationary basis provided they undertake a college level program (e.g., an institute for pastoral life, etc.) financed by the diocese and judged by the diocese to include areas of ministry essential to the ministry of the pastoral administrator;

3. formal appointment by the bishop follows successful completion of the internship or studies program provided for through written agreement between the diocese and the applicant.

Personal Qualifications to be Considered

a. general good health (physical, psychological, spiritual);

b. liturgically based spirituality centered on the prayer life of the Church;

c. experience maintaining confidentially;

d. skill as initiator; ability to organize, to work in collaboration, to facilitate, to delegate;

e. reasonable familiarity with the area, people, culture;

f. commitment to personal and professional growth.

Table of Contents:

1. Position Descriptions

2. Special Authorizations or Faculties

3. Procedures