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5.13.4 Process for Pastoral Assignments

5.13.4.1 Appointment Process for Designation as a Pastor


Pastors are appointed by the archbishop either by direct appointment, in consultation with the Priest Personnel Board, or through the annual application process overseen by the Office of the Vicar for Clergy.

The annual application process begins each fall when the Office of the Vicar for Clergy publishes the names of parishes that will have openings for pastor effective July 1 of the following year. Generally, appointments to pastorates are made and announced in the spring, effective July 1. Any incardinated priest who discerns that he is prepared to serve as pastor, regardless of years of service, or a pastor who wishes to be considered for transfer to another pastorate may submit an application to the archbishop to be considered for assignment to an open parish.

When a priest applies, he is asked to complete a profile for use by the Priest Personnel Board. This profile includes a self-evaluation of the priest's pastoral talents, abilities, and skills. During the interview process, the Priest Personnel Board will discuss with the applicant the compatibility of his skills with the needs of the parish or parishes for which he is applying or might be considered (e.g., the parish's number of families, ethnicity, or language needs, or the size of the school).

During the application process, the Office of the Vicar for Clergy will provide the priest applicant with a copy of the parish profile for each parish for which he is applying. Each profile is prepared by the current pastor or administrator in collaboration with the regional bishop and his office.

A priest may ask to be considered to be a pastor for one or more particular parishes. The Priest Personnel Board may also ask a priest if he is willing to be considered as pastor for a particular parish or parishes, based on the needs of the archdiocese or the priest's particular abilities. A parochial administrator may ask to be considered as pastor where he is currently assigned or at other open parishes.

A priest may participate in the application process without specifying a parish, and the Priest Personnel Board will then suggest a suitable parish to the priest for his consideration.

For parishes in the archdiocese that are entrusted to a religious order, the archbishop's approval and appointment of a pastor who is a member of a religious institute must precede any announcement by the pastor's religious superior.

Qualifications for Assignment as a Pastor

In addition to canonical requirements, a priest's minimum professional readiness is illustrated through successful experience as a pastor or as a parochial administrator for at least two years. Performance evaluations and recommendations from regional bishops, clergy, religious, and laity with whom the priest has worked are also considered.

Selection Criteria and Notification

During the fifth year of a six-year term, priests who are already pastors will meet with the regional bishop, their dean, and the dean from the region who sits on the Priest Personnel Board to explore their plans for their future and to assist the archbishop and Priest Personnel Board in planning for future needs and appointments. The Priest Personnel Board​ will invite all applicants to be interviewed before making its recommendations to the archbishop. A priest may elect not to be interviewed.

In recommending a priest for a pastorate, the Priest Personnel Board places a priority on the needs of the archdiocese and the parishes. The Priest Personnel Board will seek to match the needs and priorities of a parish to the experience, training, qualities, and talents of a particular priest. In making recommendations for pastorates, the Priest Personnel Board strives to reach decisions that are fair, reasonable, and justifiable. Generally, when equally qualified candidates are available for a particular assignment, seniority will be the deciding factor. If the Priest Personnel Board decides that it cannot recommend a priest—either at present or in the foreseeable future—for a pastorate, the vicar for clergy will advise the priest and consult with him concerning his future ministry. If a priest has a concern about an appointment as pastor/administrator, he may make an inquiry to the Priest Personnel Board.

The Priest Personnel Board, after consulting with the regional bishops, will convey its recommended choices to the vicar for clergy who will, in turn, convey them to the archbishop. After the archbishop has made his decisions for the open pastorates, all candidates are notified of the decisions by the Office of the Vicar for Clergy prior to the public announcement.

​Direct Appointment

The archbishop has the authority to freely appoint a pastor or administrator when he deems the situation warrants after canonical consultation. The Priest Personnel Board may be consulted for a recommendation.

5.13.4.2Appointment as Parochial Administrator before Being Appointed to the Office of Pastor

When called to shepherd a parish, a priest who previously has not completed a full term of service as a pastor in another parish or an equivalent assignment of like responsibility shall first be appointed as parochial administrator (Canons 539–540) rather than being named to the office of pastor. In special cases the Priest Personnel Board may also recommend to the archbishop that a priest with previous experience as a pastor be appointed as parochial administrator in a new parish assignment. A priest who applies to be a pastor and is not so designated may be asked to be a parochial administrator.

Parochial administrators are appointed for one year and are subject to renewal for a maximum of three years. Appointments as parochial administrator are made from among those who have applied to be a pastor or by a direct appointment​ by the archbishop. Upon successful completion of this service as parochial administrator, a priest may apply to be pastor, and if he is appointed as pastor, the appointment will be for the usual six-year term, renewable once. The completion of an assignment for a specified term is effective only upon written notification by the archbishop or his delegate (see Canon 186).

The regional bishop shall appoint a mentor pastor to support the parochial administrator by being available for consultation and by meeting with him periodically. The regional bishop shall also meet with the parochial administrator regularly during these years to review the progress of his service. A mentor pastor may also be appointed for an administrator or pastor from a religious institute who is new to the archdiocese, after consultation with his regional superior.

Parochial administrators are required to attend all New Pastors/Administrators Workshops offered throughout California each year and must attend new administrator meetings offered by the Office of the Vicar for Clergy.

5.13.4.3 Term of Office for Pastors

In the archdiocese, pastors serve for limited terms in accordance with Canon 522. Limited terms for pastors:

  • Provide an opportunity for evaluation, affirmation, and accountability

  • Allow for a gracious way of moving away from a parish

  • Create a greater likelihood that priests will accept challenging pastorates

  • Foster a sense of equality among priests

  • Give priests an opportunity for updating

  • Help pastors prepare better for retirement through the experience of moving

  • Encourage pastors to plan (e.g., to move to a smaller parish as they approach retirement)

Terms are for six years, renewable once. Terms apply to pastors appointed in 1986 or later. While the policy does not apply to pastors appointed before 1986, such pastors are eligible for and are invited to participate in the current appointment system. Appointment to a second term as pastor is at the discretion of the archbishop, in consultation with the regional bishop, the vicar for clergy, and the Priest Personnel Board.

The age of the pastor upon reaching the completion of his term in the parish affects his eligibility for assignment to another parish. The vicar for clergy prepares a list annually of priests who are completing their term as pastor. Generally, unless a priest reaches age 65 during his current appointment, he will be asked to consider an appointment at a different parish. A pastor who completes his term after he turns 65 may request to remain at the same parish as pastor, without a specified term, with the approval of the archbishop. In special circumstances, as determined by the archbishop in consultation with the regional bishop and the local dean, a pastor's term may be extended on a year-to-year basis. Pastors 65 years of age or older may choose among various options: remain as pastor with the concurrence of the archbishop; apply to serve as pastor of another parish; serve as a senior priest in another parish; or, in special circumstances, apply for retirement.

5.13.4.4 Procedure for Assignment of Associate Pastors

Annually, the vicar for clergy determines which parishes have vacancies for associate pastors, based on term limits or a need for additional priests at the parish. The Priest Personnel Board will then recommend appointments for newly ordained, incardinated, and extern priests who are currently present in the archdiocese. The newly ordained will be considered first, followed by incardinated priests, and finally extern priests. The vicar for clergy initiates the first assignment for externs arriving in the archdiocese and consults with the regional bishop and the Priest Personnel Board for continued or future assignments for externs.

Term Limits for Associate Pastors and Changes of Assignment

Incardinated priests are subject to limited term assignments as an associate pastor, as follows:

  • Up to four years for newly ordained priests

  • Up to five years for other associate pastors, with the possibility of extensions up to a maximum of seven years

After 20 years of service in the archdiocese, an associate pastor will be subject to the same term as pastors (i.e., terms of six years, renewable once).

Externs consult with the vicar for clergy concerning their status and continued appointments, which are then reviewed by the Priest Personnel Board. Externs are generally appointed for one- or two-year terms as associates, renewable as needs require and depending on the individual priest's calling and ministry.

The Priest Personnel Board will notify associate pastors who are eligible for a change of assignment. Associate pastors involved and the regional bishops will receive copies of these notices. The Priest Personnel Board may ask each associate involved in a change of assignment to draw up a personal profile and the Priest Personnel Board will provide a sample format for this profile.

Associate pastors (other than the newly ordained) who have been notified of their eligibility for a change of assignment may request an extension. Letters from both the associate and the pastor requesting the extension should be addressed to the vicar for clergy and include reasons for requesting the extension. The Priest Personnel Board may ask the associate to come for an interview.

Any associate, no matter how long he has been in his present assignment, may ask the Priest Personnel Board to place his name on the list of associates eligible for transfer. Before making the request, he should first discuss the matter with his pastor/administrator. Any pastor/administrator may ask the Priest Personnel Board to place an associate serving at his parish on the list of associates eligible for transfer. Before petitioning the Priest Personnel Board to do so, the pastor/administrator should first discuss the matter with the associate pastor. For the good of the archdiocese or to address particular needs, the Priest Personnel Board may reassign an associate pastor at any time. The Priest Personnel Board will respect the priests' choices as feasible and will submit to the archbishop its list of recommended changes.

5.13.4.5 Senior Priests, Supply Priests, and Priests in Residence

An incardinated priest in full-time ministry as an associate pastor at age 65 may receive the designation of "senior priest" and, unless a priest retires then, with the approval of the vicar for clergy and the archbishop, he generally will continue in ministry at the parish of his assignment as determined in consultation with the regional bishop, the vicar for clergy, and his pastor/administrator.

Externs or incardinated priests who hold an archdiocesan or non-diocesan assignment outside of parish ministry may serve as "supply priests" to one or more parishes. At the invitation of a pastor/administrator, such priests may be invited to be "in residence" at a particular parish. A resident priest is usually appointed for six years to a parish residence, renewable once. If there is a change in pastors, the regional bishop, the new pastor, and the resident priest should discuss the situation. Upon assignment, the pastor and the resident priest should discuss mutually their expectation and availability. If the resident priest is acting as a supply priest, thus saving the parish money, it would be customary to give him a fee for service that is determined beforehand. As a general matter, a priest who is in residence at a parish will participate in ministry at that parish to the degree possible or, as needs require, may serve as a supply priest to other parishes.

5.13.4.6 Priest Evaluation Process

All priests are evaluated to determine their suitability for ministry. For priests who are ministering in the archdiocese, the purpose of the evaluation is to assist in determining priestly assignments and to enhance and enrich the priests in personal holiness and ministry to the Church. While evaluation questions may center more on the visible activities and functions of priests, the importance of personal growth and the well-being of the priests are also emphasized.

The Priest Personnel Board, working with the Office of the Vicar for Clergy, provides the regional bishops with guidelines for evaluating priests.

During the second year as an administrator, a priest is evaluated by the regional bishop and the Priest Personnel Board to determine whether the priest should be recommended to be designated as a pastor. A priest completing his first term as pastor is evaluated for reappointment during the fifth or sixth year.

The priest himself should also take the initiative to ensure that the evaluation happens in a timely and effective manner. The evaluation process should provide the priest with insights about which he can dialogue with his spiritual director, mentor pastor (where applicable), and priestly support group.

During the course of ministry or the evaluation process, whether the priest is then an associate​, administrator, or pastor​, areas of concern about the priest or his current or overall ministry may need to be addressed. The regional bishop should address these concerns with the priest or ask for the assistance of the local dean or the vicar for clergy. After consultation with the archbishop, the regional bishop, in collaboration with the vicar for clergy and the local dean, may appoint investigators and may also appoint three pastors to review and investigate the concerns and make a report to the regional bishop and the vicar for clergy. Should the evaluation suggest that removing or transferring the priest in question may be appropriate, the archbishop shall initiate the process prescribed by Canons 1740 and 1748. Any final decisions are reserved to the archbishop. The primary goal is to reach an outcome that assures the good of the parish and assists the priest so he can have a healthy and whole life and vibrant ministry whenever possible.

5.13.4.7 Appointments to Special Ministries or Studies

Priests Assigned to Special Ministries


Priests who wish to engage in special ministries in the archdiocese (such as Catholic chaplains at state institutions, hospitals, or high schools) must have a letter of endorsement from the archbishop prior to their application if the institution is within the boundaries of the archdiocese. The Office of the Vicar for Clergy will assist interested persons. In addition, the archbishop or his designees may approach a priest concerning a possible special ministry, such as service at the seminary or in other formation roles, an assignment for the archdiocese at the Archdiocesan Catholic Center or otherwise, or a special assignment within or outside the archdiocese.

Priests Assigned to Studies

On an as-needed basis, the archdiocese makes opportunities for studies available to priests of the archdiocese. The purpose is to provide resources for the presbyterate and the archdiocese at large. To achieve that objective, a long-range plan for the needs of the archdiocese is developed. The subjects to be studied will vary from year to year, as the archbishop determines. Priests wishing to pursue continuing or advanced studies may make a request in writing to the vicar for clergy or directly to the archbishop.

For an incardinated priest assigned to studies, the archdiocese pays tuition, room and board, reasonable and customary incidental living expenses, annual transportation to and from the place of study, and other expenditures such as books and supplies. He will receive the salary of a priest, including the "in lieu of stipends" amount (if he elects that option) and the annual ongoing formation allowance. His pension benefits will be paid by the archdiocese. He receives the same health benefits as other priests. Appropriate health-related expenses not covered by archdiocesan health insurance will be reimbursed by the archdiocese.

Unless the use of a vehicle is required as part of the priest's studies, the archdiocese will not normally provide a vehicle. This need is to be determined before the priest leaves for full-time studies. Upon application by the priest, the vicar for clergy will make this determination.

The priest assigned to studies will annually submit a budget for approval by the vice chancellor for ministerial services. A priest who is beginning his studies may estimate the costs involved for the coming year and ask the archdiocese for an advance to cover the costs or he can submit requests for reimbursement to the archdiocese. Requests for reimbursement must be made within the same fiscal year as the costs are incurred.

5.13.4.8 Involvement with Special Programs

A priest assigned to a parish and who is involved in special programs or events (e.g., Marriage Encounter, Engaged Encounter, or youth retreats) that require him to be absent from the parish is expected to discuss his absence with the other priests in the parish at least one month in advance of the program or event. The priests affected should work together to find a suitable replacement and the parish will pay the service fee for the replacement. Since these programs or events are a necessary contribution to the Church at large, priests are encouraged to participate in and foster them, but such participation should not require more than two weekends per year.

5.13.4.9 Student Priests from Other Countries

The archdiocese may provide hospitality for priests from abroad while they pursue studies at institutions within the archdiocese. A priest who wishes to reside in a parish must apply to the Office of the Vicar for Clergy and receive prior approval for residence, qualify for long-term faculties, and obtain an R-1 visa (for temporary nonimmigrant religious workers). The student priest must present the acceptance letter from his educational institution to the Office of the Vicar for Clergy and specify in writing the nature of his studies and how long he plans to stay. The Office of the Vicar for Clergy will respond to requests for hospitality according to the resources of the archdiocese and its institutions. The Office of the Vicar for Clergy will contact the recommending ordinary directly. Pastors/administrators/parish life directors must consult with the Office of the Vicar for Clergy before initiating any discussions with prospective student priests.

Long-term faculties are only issued to those student priests who are given the assignment of priest "Student-Resident" in the parish where they will be staying. The student priest who has the appropriate R-1 visa and long-term faculties, and who has been assigned residence in a parish where he contributes ministry, is eligible to receive compensation of $400 per month, generally paid for by the parish of residency. Hospitality for such student priests will include room and board, medical insurance, and car insurance. In cases where the parish is subsidized or cannot fund these costs, the parish should consult with the moderator of the curia to determine if the archdiocese will cover the payments. The parish is not expected to provide a vehicle, gasoline, or vehicle maintenance. Pastors/administrators/parish life directors shall observe the provisions of the law concerning work and compensation according to the type of visa obtained by the student priest when admitted to the United States. Under "Procedures for Ministerial Faculties and Approvals," see Long-Term Faculties (More Than Two Months in the Archdiocese).

Student priests approved by the Office of the Vicar for Clergy ordinarily will be provided with permission for residence for a period of two years. Only the vicar for clergy may grant extensions. Requests for extensions must be submitted to the Office of the Vicar for Clergy six months prior to the commencement of the academic year for which the extension is requested.

Priests who come into the archdiocese to study without following this policy will be disqualified for consideration for any faculties, assignment, or financial support.

A student priest will be expected to perform the normal tasks of a resident priest. These include celebrating weekday Mass and helping with reconciliation and Sunday Masses. While a student priest is not expected to assume a normal workload in the parish, he can be asked under special circumstances to help with baptisms, funerals, weddings, and other parish functions. It is understood that his primary task is to study and that his time and energies will be devoted principally to that task.

At the time of the resident assignment, the pastor and student priest should discuss and document in writing their mutual expectations. Unless they have done so previously, student priests are required to attend the archdiocesan Becoming Home program. Student priests may also be required to participate in the Teachers and Preachers (TAP) accent acquisition program to help them in their parish ministry. 


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