The Role of the Parish Priest
Every Diocese is divided into distinct parts which are known as Parishes. A Parish is a community of Christ’s faithful whose pastoral care is entrusted to a Parish Priest. He is the proper pastor of the community, caring for the people and celebrating the Sacraments. In the exercise of his office the Parish Priest acts under the authority of the diocesan Bishop.
The Parish Priest has a twofold obligation: to proclaim the Gospel and work toward the salvation of souls. In the fulfilment of these duties he is to involve the entire Parish community.
In summary we could say that he is involved in the following areas, either directly or indirectly:
• proclamation of the Word of God, through preaching, teaching, catechesis and the promotion of Catholic education
• leading people in worship through the liturgy
• leadership and service of the Parish community
• seeing to the administration of temporal goods
• promotion of mission, outreach and support
• promotion of social justice
Parish pastoral councils and parish finance committees enjoy a consultative role only. They are not executive bodies and cannot in any way become deliberative structures. Only those faithful who possess the qualities prescribed by the canonical norms may be elected to such responsibilities.
The Parish Priest presides at the pastoral and finance councils (though he can appoint a person to chair the meeting). Any deliberations entered into, (or decisions taken), by a pastoral or finance council which has not been presided over by the Parish Priest or which has assembled contrary to his wishes are to be considered as null and void.
As can be seen, the role of Parish Priest brings with it great responsibilities. Our modern age has imposed organisational burdens on his role which, if he does not share with others will reduce him to a public servant and a bureaucrat, a planner rather than a pastor. The Parish Priest is called to be, above all, a Shepherd, a Pastor and a father. It is the task of the whole Parish Community to support him in this role.