By Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond
Clarion Herald – 6/10/17
In the pastoral administration of the archdiocese, you have the help of 10 pastors who have been appointed “deans” of each of the archdiocese’s 10 deaneries. Can you explain what their role is?
Deans are given the Latin title of “Vicar Forane,” which is why you often will see the initials “V.F.” behind their names. The history of the Vicar Forane goes back to the 1917 Code of Canon Law, which made it mandatory to divide a diocese into geographical clusters of parishes called “deaneries.” After consulting with the priests in the deanery, the bishop is required to appoint a dean for a specific term, which can be renewed. A “vicar” is a person who assists the bishop in pastoral governance. “Forane” means “outlying” or “rural.” It was the inspiration of St. Charles Borromeo that the bishop receive assistance from a priest in the far reaches of a diocese where the bishop’s presence might be less visible. Though “V.F.” no longer refers to “far-reaching areas,” the title of Vicar Forane was retained in the most recent Code of Canon Law.
Who are the 10 deans?
Father Tony Rigoli, O.M.I. (Cathedral Deanery); Father Paul Desrosiers (City Park-Gentilly Deanery); Msgr. John Cisewski (Uptown Deanery); Msgr. Harry Bugler (East Jefferson Deanery); Father Walter Austin (St. John-St. Charles Deanery); Father Mike Kettenring (West Bank Deanery); Father John Talamo (Algiers-Plaquemines Deanery); Father Oswald Pierre-Jules, S.S.J. (St. Bernard Deanery); Father Rodney Bourg (West St. Tammany-Washington Deanery); and Father Gil Martin (East St. Tammany-Washington Deanery).
What role do the deans play in pastoral governance?
They work collaboratively with me through what is known as the Council of Deans, which meets every two months. The director of the Council of Deans is Msgr. Bugler, who is the pastor of St. Philip Neri Parish in Metairie. Msgr. Bugler presides at the meetings of the Council of Deans. Each dean gives special attention to his own deanery and brings to my attention any pastoral needs or other challenges that exist in his deanery. Many people became more familiar with the deanery process after Katrina, when the archdiocese did its pastoral planning at the parish and deanery levels. It is a true collaborative effort. At such meetings, we also discuss pastoral issues that affect the entire archdiocese. I make no important decisions without consultation from the deans.
How do you choose a dean?
The “Directory on the Pastoral Ministry of Bishops” says the bishop should choose a priest who is capable of personally caring for the people of God residing in his district and who is respected by the clergy for his “learning and apostolic work.” The dean should be someone who can promote and coordinate collaboration in the pastoral programs of the deanery.
Concretely, what does that mean?
If there are pastoral challenges in the deanery that he becomes aware of – either from his brother priests or the people – the dean is available to offer advice and direction. Also, the dean can offer his own advice when he sees something that might be a potentially challenging situation. The dean also chairs the deanery meetings, which are usually held every month or every other month. The dean would help coordinate things like a deanery-wide penance service or other pastoral programs that the parishes participate in. The dean has his finger on the pulse of the deanery. The dean also makes a pastoral visit to each parish in his deanery to do an assessment of the parish and to offer support to the priests and pastoral staff.
Do you attend deanery meetings?
Yes. Each year, I attend a deanery meeting in each deanery, which is a wonderful opportunity for me to meet in smaller groups with priests and deacons. It’s very informative because I get the chance to see how pastoral situations and needs might differ from deanery to deanery. It also gives me the opportunity to discuss with priests and deacons particular issues of pastoral care and the implementation of the synod. Some deaneries discuss how they could collaborate – for example, on religious education or youth ministry programs. The deanery discussions are also invaluable on the sacramental level because as we look to establish guidelines for the celebration of the sacraments, the deanery discussions go a long way in clarifying issues and coming up with insightful suggestions and recommendations.
What if a person in a parish feels he or she needs to talk about a pastoral situation?
Sometimes there are challenging situations in a parish. We believe in the process offered by Jesus in Matthew 18. If there is a challenging situation or conflict in the parish, the person should go first to the priest and see if the situation can be resolved. Maybe that means going back a second time with another parishioner who feels the same way. If a person feels he or she has exhausted what can be done on the parish level, then that person can go to the dean for guidance and advice. The deans are there to help in a pastorally sensitive way and to consult with me when necessary. They are very important to me in the overall governance of the archdiocese, and I am thankful to God for their service.
Questions for Archbishop Aymond may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org