Although at first glance the following may seem to apply to a Pastor of a parish, a parochial vicar is literally, a priest who is deputed or authorized to perform the functions of the pastor in his stead. The Code of Canon Law defines the office as follows: "Parochial vicars are priests who render their services in pastoral ministry as co-workers with the pastor in common counsel and endeavor with him and also under his authority" (545.1).
Given the size of some parishes, parochial vicars are essential in helping the pastor fulfill his obligations for the spiritual and temporal welfare of the parish. Hence, although the proposed questions do apply directly to a pastor, they should apply to any Catholic priest who takes his life and work seriously and with initiative.
The Priest is responsible for THE MINISTRY OF WORSHIP
1. He presides and preaches, especially at Sunday Masses and major feasts. How does he see that the Eucharist is the center of the congregational life of the parish?
2. How does he see that the liturgy is celebrated in accordance with Church norms, and that the active participation of the laity is promoted?
3. How does he oversee the broad sacramental life of the parish and provide for the liturgical needs of the people? (Some examples are weekday Eucharist, baptisms, marriages, anointing of the sick, funerals, reconciliation and penance services, etc.)
4. How does he assure programs for sacramental preparation?
5. How does he provide for the recruitment and on-going formation (spiritual, educational, skills development) of needed liturgical ministers?
6. Besides prayerful presiding at celebrations of the rites of the Church calendar, how does he arrange for regular spiritual renewal of the parish through missions, retreats, and other spiritual exercises?
7. How does he promote a spirit of prayer in the parish and in the families of the parish, and encourage a deeper understanding and appreciation for the Scriptures through Bible study and prayer groups?
The Priest is responsible for THE MINISTRY OF EDUCATION
1. How does he provide for adult education to foster religious growth, spiritual maturation, and the formation of Christian conscience, so that parishioners develop an understanding of social/moral issues of the larger world to support their baptismal responsibilities in daily life?
2. How does he assure proper coordination of religious education endeavors for children, youth, and other parish groups with special needs?
3. How does he assure sacramental catechesis programs and a parish ministry of evangelization and outreach?
4. How does he exercise responsibility for the interpretation of Church teaching and Church discipline?
5. How does he provide spiritual formation and educational vision for parish ministers of education? (Some examples: catechists and teachers, in collaboration with the director of faith formation, school principal, youth minister, etc., as may apply.)
6. How does he assure the integration of various sub-groups, such as parish school personnel, into a unified vision?
The Priest is responsible for THE MINISTRY OF PASTORAL SERVICES
1. How does he provide significant personal presence at parish events?
2. How does he spend time with the parishioners, especially at important moments of their lives?
3. How does he provide for on-going spiritual renewal and development of the faith community at large, building a sense of parish unity and mutual ministry?
4. How does he recognize the gifts of others, calling forth leadership from the parish community, providing for their training, delegating responsibilities, and establishing structures for collegial functioning and shared decision-making?
5. How does he assure that ministry of care for the sick and homebound, family life ministry, marriage preparation and enrichment, pastoral counseling, and all other specialized ministries are functioning effectively?
6. Is he open to serve on Diocesan boards and committees as is needed, and identifies and develops those areas of direct ministry which are most in keeping with his unique abilities, interests, and gifts?
The Priest is responsible for ADMINISTRATION
1. How does he ensure proper administration of the material assets of the parish? (Buildings, finances, and budget preparation, etc., in consultation with the parish finance council and the Diocesan finance office)
2. Does he discern parish needs, in consultation with the parish pastoral council and coordinate future planning in cooperation with neighboring Priests in his Vicariate, and the on-gong Diocesan planning process.
3. How does he oversee personnel management of paid support or volunteer staff? Does he provide just wages, encourage volunteers, employ outside help and consultants as needed, and is he available for regular staff and individual meetings providing for affirmation, mutual support and evaluation?
4. Does he know the Diocesan vision/mission and invite the parish community to articulate its vision/mission ensuring on-going evaluation of parish life and programs in the light of those visions/missions? Is he able to design and implement systemic change in conjunction with planning groups?
5. How does he coordinate operations of the parish office, including maintenance of parish sacramental records?
6. Is he good at decision-making?
7. Is he able to negotiate and manage conflict among parish leadership?
8. Is he skilled in public relations and able to listen to others and communicate effectively?
The Priest is responsible for BROADENING HIS KNOWLEDGE
1. Does he have an in-depth grasp of Church teaching, as well as of biblical and pastoral/moral theology?
2. Is he conversant in:
— Canon Law and Church history?
— stages of human and faith development?
— principles of organization, management, and team building?
— principles of communication and counseling?
3. Is he familiar with the humanities, art, and literature?
4. Has he a sense of history of the parish as well as knowledge of its current demographics, constituency, and complexities?
The Priest is responsible for BROADENING HIS PASTORAL SKILLS
1. Is he skilled and effective at prayerful presiding, preaching, and administration of the sacraments?
2. Is he able to discern parishioners’ faith development, and can he inspire them to live a Gospel way of life?
3. Can he recognize and evoke the gifts of people, and enable and coordinate their ministries?
4. Is he capable of inspiring stewardship, empowering people to assume ownership for parish life?
5. Does he give permission to others to exercise their proper roles?
The Priest is responsible for BROADENING HIS PERSONAL SKILLS
1. Can he relate his own history, family roots, spiritual journey, gifts, and limits to his leadership style in an objective manner?
2. Does he live a balanced life-style, caring for his spiritual, physical and psychological health?
3. Does he nurture a life of personal prayer, seeking regular spiritual counsel (e.g., spiritual direction, through annual retreats, Jesu Caritas groups, etc.)?
4. Does he maintain a healthy distinction between identity and role, handling criticisms without personalizing them?
5. Is he able to say “no” to unrealistic expectations placed on him by himself or by others? Does he have friends to help him to discern this process?
6. Does he take time to renew himself through rest and relaxation?
The Priest is responsible for HIS ON-GOING FORMATION AND TRAINING
1. In addition to successful completion of the basic seminary training leading up to presbyteral ordination and degrees in pastoral ministry, does he have the attitude desirable for readiness to assume the role of pastor?
2. Has he completed a period of time as a Parochial Vicar under a mentor Pastor who provides delegated responsibilities in a broad range of pastoral experiences?
3. Does he evidence a commitment to on-going formation and development by participation in Diocesan sponsored programs and other continuing education courses and workshops related to parish ministry?
4. What is his attitude? Is he open to change and renewal?