In the past couple of morceaux, in line with the topic of the ministry of governance in the Church, I’ve described the offices of vicar general, of moderator of the curia, and of chancellor, for in our diocese in recent weeks these three jobs have been undertaken by two priests, Fathers Tom Ranzino and Paul Yi.
Before moving on to other things, since the summertime “season” for necessary new assignments among the priests is upon us, it may be interesting to describe this just briefly.
The bishop of a diocese, and he alone, is responsible for the assignments of priests and deacons within his territory. While the Code of Canon Law does require him to consult with others before making these decisions (can. 524), and the provincial superior of a religious order has the right to present its members to the bishop for assignment (can. 682, §1), in the end it’s the bishop’s choice to assign any cleric to a particular post or ministry.
Although the bishop is free to talk to whoever he wants before making his decisions, in the Diocese of Baton Rouge, the required “consultation” that precedes assignments has for years been entrusted to a “Clergy Personnel Board.” Back in the mid-1960s under Bishop Tracy the Presbyteral Council – called the Priests’ Senate back then – established this independent Board. Over the years, with brief exceptions during the ministries of Bishops Sullivan and Muench, the membership of the Board has been elected by the active priests of the diocese – with the deacons also electing a representative after the permanent diaconate was established in the late 1970s. (“Clergy” means “priests and deacons” – a point that sometimes gets forgotten!)
The Clergy Personnel Board meets when needed throughout the year, but is active especially each spring as it considers recommendations for the upcoming summer. For practical reasons, except in unusual situations, most assignments begin on July 1 each year. The Board’s members try to take into account the preferences and unique gifts and talents that each cleric has, as well as the needs of the diocese and each individual parish and other ministry, in making its recommendations to the bishop. Oftentimes it’s a very difficult job, for not every person or placement is the same, and finding the best “match” often involves a lot of creative thought, tough discussions, and much prayer!
I’ll mention a few more things about personnel ministry in the next morceau. This work is yet another way the Kingdom of God is built up in our midst.