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Pittsburgh Diocese

Under the direction of Bishop Zubik, the diocese has begun to explore a new model of pastoral governance called "regional vicariates." For further information, see the following documents:


New PPC Vicariate


Updating on the assignment of regional Vicars.

Last Monday, October 13, 2008, it was the turn of the clergy of Lawrence & Butler Counties to meet with Bishop Zubik and with members of the Pittsburgh Chancery to hear the latest tentative coming outlines on the proposed adoption of Vicars supervising our Parishes.

So we were told that: Vicars have already been adopted by the Dioceses of Detroit, Cleveland, St. Paul Minnesota, Buffalo, Chicago, Trenton, etc. Our Diocese may assign 3-5 regional vicars with yet unclear boundaries between vicariates [Vicars already operate presiding over canon law, schools, Marriage tribunal, clergy retirement and clergy appointments]. With the assignment of Vicars it is not clear what will be the future of the past Clusters & Deaneries. Nothing is yet determined on the concept of vicariate as definitive until Oct. 2009. The various suggestions that have thus far been voiced on Vicariate during the other deanery and priests’ council meetings will be made public.

A second major clarifications on the nature of the upcoming Vicariates will be presented at the Spring clergy meeting of 2009. We were reminded to be realistic about some basic new trends: the various parishes will need to work together in several areas, even sharing with each other their various resources. No parish will be left to operate by itself. The upcoming Vicars will be primarily concerned about upholding the apostolate. They will periodically review and evaluate each pastor’ and parish’ performance, will foster inter-parish consolidation, supervises the selection and pursuance of priorities, test the local accountability, transparency, plans, administration, liturgies, sacramental life, the assignment on the number of each parish Mass schedules, resolve possible internal tensions inside each parish & between neighboring parishes. Having progressively grown familiar with the history, nature and needs of each parish, the vicar would eventually help to clarify to the Diocesan clergy senate what would be the most appropriate selection of future assignment of clergy to the various parishes. The Vicar will pay frequent visits to each parishes, may also supervise the meetings of the various confederate area and the individual church’s Parish Pastoral and Parish Financial council meetings. Each Vicar will be accountable to promote a healthy pastoral life both in each parish, and throughout his entire vicariate. They will see to it that in each Vicariate the area institutions [jails, nursing homes, hospitals, institutions, etc.] are provided complete pastoral care. Each Vicar will monthly meet with the Bishop to report in detail about each aspect of the administration of his vicariate. It is crucial that both Pastors and parishioners become familiar with these upcoming changes caused by the arrival of the Vicars.


Deanery meetings to review

proposed vicariate structure

Committee report will be

the basis of discussion




General Manager, Pittsburgh Catholic

The nine spring diocesan-wide deanery meetings between Bishop David Zubik and local priests and deacons began Feb. 26 and run through March 18. The meetings will focus on the proposal for a new vicariate structure to replace the existing deanery system.

The report of an Ad Hoc Committee on Regional Vicariates will be the basis of the consultation at the deanery meetings.  According to that report, the primary reasons for considering the regional vicariate system of diocesan governance are to establish a more direct line of communication between the diocesan bishop and the parishes, to allow greater decision making on a local level and to foster common pastoral activity among parishes.


Vicariates developed for the universal church from the Second Vatican Council and subsequent church instructions, including the 2004 Directory for the Pastoral Ministry of Bishops. There are a number of archdioceses and dioceses throughout the United States that use this type of governance, including Buffalo and Chicago.

As Aux. Bishop Paul Bradley, chairman of the ad hoc committee, explained, "what we are studying is a system of diocesan governance that will expand the presence of the diocesan bishop into the parishes of the diocese. This is not adding on a new structure, but replacing the current deanery structure with a new, slimmer vehicle through which the diocesan bishop can better consult with parishes and parishes can better consult with him."

 The Diocese of Pittsburgh is currently divided into 16 area deaneries, each including a dean who is a pastor. The dean conducts annual visitations to parishes in his deanery to review whether canonical and diocesan norms are being followed.

Following a March 2008 meeting of the diocesan Priest Council, Bishop Zubik accepted the recommendation that the diocese study establishing regional vicariates in place of the deanery system.

The ad hoc committee appointed by Bishop Zubik in June 2008 to conduct the study is made up of priests, pastoral administration members, deacons, religious and laity. It is chaired by Bishop Bradley, vicar general of the diocese.  The background materials on regional vicariates were reviewed at last fall's deanery meetings. Based on the input from those sessions, and after review by the diocesan Administrative Board, the Priest Council and the Diocesan Pastoral Council in January, the current report and proposal have been prepared.


Informational material and a ques-
tionnaire ^wre developed to help pastors
inform and consult wim parish staff and
lay ecdesial ministers leading up to the
spring deanery meetings.
According to the Ad Hoc Committee
on Regional Vicariates' report, vicariates
are sections of the diocese divided by
geographical regions. A regional vicar
appointed by the bishop oversees each of
these vicariates.
The regional vicar assists the bishop
in the exercise of his pastoral office in
that region and represents the bishop on
a daily basis to the clergy, religious and
laity However, there is no intention to re-
create all the functions of pastoral
administration through "mini-
chanceries" on the vicariate level.
In general, me report states that with-
in his region a vicar will coordinate pas-
toral care, determine parish and regional
pastoral needs, serve as the administra-
tive representative of the bishop, pro-
mote collaboration among parishes,
resolve problems, visit local parishes' ;
regularly and help in local decision- i
making. ^
The report states that the basic pur- (
poseofexpioringvicariatesistoembrace f
what Bishop Zubik called forWhis first e
pastoral letter, "The Church Alive!" The
bishop's goal "is to grow the Church of t
Pittsburgh and to encourage excitement ";
about the faith at the parish level. A pri- si
mary goal of "The Church Alive!' is to ti
establish a closer service relationship b
between the bishop and his pastoral tt
administration and the parishes."
Regional vicariates would afford "e
parishes greater local autonomy by ai
to^«^-iff^^«»»^^.....^.^. ,....^ ,
working with a vicar "who knows them
well," the report states. It will also mean
that some pastoral administration tasks
could be eliminated, turned over to the
regional vicars or returned to the parish-
According to canon law, a regional
s- vicar must be a priest not less than 30
•s years of age, "holding a doctorate or
d licentiate in canon law or in theology or
ie at least being truly expert in these disci-
plines, recommended by reason of their
e sound doctrine, integrity, prudence and
s experience.inhandlingpastoral.person-
y nel and administrative matters," and
r with "effective pastoral experience."
f The ad hoc committee recommended
a term of five years for a regional vicar
) witharenewalforoneadditionalterm.
i The authority of a regional vicar
i "derives directly from canon law by
1 virtue of his appointment by the dioce-
san bishop. He possesses the same gen-
' eralaumoritymhisregionasavicargen-
eral does for the entire diocese. That
authority exists only as long as the term
of his appointment." ,
The committee report outlines pas-
toral, leadership, liturgical, temporal and i
canonical tasks for the regional vicars, r
Pastoral tasks include regular parish a
visitations and regional parish planning, r
as well as representing the local church a
in civil, ecumenical and interfaith gath- I
erings. Leadership tasks include service C
on diocesan boards and resolving con-
flicts with parishes and betw^een parish- tl
lituigical tasks are to make certain fc
that the liturgy and other sacraments
"are celebrated in accord with the pre- b
scnptions of the law and diocesan direc- to
tives," as well as presiding at and cele- in
hratmg Sunday liturgies in parishes of
the region. ^
The regional vicar is expected to ali
"ensure that ecclesiastical goods are be
appropriately administered," be isi
m mvolveddoselymparishalterationsand
in building requests, and to review the
is financial accounts ofparishes. Canonical
ie tasks indude approving requests to alter
1- Mass schedules and to ensure that
parish sacramental records are prooeriv
al kept. i i^ j
0 The regional vicar will also work
>r dosefy with the dergy in his vicariate to
>r see that those who are ill or retired are
i- being cared for, and "to encourage pro-
r gramstofosterthespmtuallifeofpriests
d and deacons."
Thecommittee report also outlines the
1 budget for each regional vicar and ana-
lyzes how the diocese might be divided
into vicariates and the number of regional vicars to be appointed.
Because of concerns over costs and the
number of priests required to serve as
¥ niU-timevicars,thecommitteereportleft
open the issue of me number of vicari-
The report presents the pros and cons
of three, four or five vicariates. This will
be a .major discussion item at the dean-
ery meetings.
After consultations at the deanery
meetings, the ad hoc committee will
meet to review and analyze that input
and continue to review the finandal
impact. The report will be reviewed
again by the Administrative Board, the
Priest Coundl and the Diocesan Pastoral
Council in May and June.
After the final proposal is reviewed by
the Administrative Board in late July,
operational details and personnel mat-'
ters will be finalized.
The committee's report reflects the
hope for the regional vicariate proposal
to be promulgated in September and
implemented in October. . i
After each of this spring's deanery
meetings, penance services will be held • i
along with the Rite of Reconciliation ' (
beginning at zp.m. (see box). The public <
is invited to these services.





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