By John Michael D. Pineda
Umatuna Si Yu’os
For several months, the priests of the Archdiocese of Agaña have been discussing the subject of vicariates, according to Father Jeff San Nicolas, Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia of the archdiocese. In consultation with the Presbyteral Council, Archbishop Michael Byrnes has decreed the establishment of four vicariates within the archdiocese. You may ask, “What is a vicariate?” among other questions. Upon many months on the subject, these “frequently asked questions” were readily answered.
What is a Vicariate?
A vicariate, also known as vicariate forane or deanery, is a region of the diocese comprised of parishes led by a priest known as the “vicar forane” appointed by the bishop in order to promote a common pastoral activity and to provide spiritual and pastoral counsel to the other priests in that region.
According to the Code of Canon Law, “Every diocese or other particular church is to be divided into distinct parts or parishes. To foster pastoral care through common action, several neighboring parishes can be joined into special groups, such as vicariates forane” (can. 374 §1, §2). In other words, vicariates make things easier by focusing coordination of pastoral activity through improved efficiency of the -pastoral initiatives in order to better provide for the needs of a certain area of the diocese.
The purpose of the vicariate is not the division of the diocese. Rather, it is the unity of parishes for the purpose of collaboration in pastoral action. “How?” you may ask, or “What do vicar foranes do?”
What is a Vicar Forane?
First, let’s understand what the term “vicar forane” means. It comes from the Latin words, “vicarius” which means a representative, and “foras,” which means “who is outside.” This is due to the fact that these priests were considered representatives of the bishop outside of the cathedral city.
A vicar forane is a priest assigned to oversee priests in the vicariate. They are in charge of communication between the bishop and the local priests.
Canon Law states, “the bishop is to select a priest whom he has judged suitable, after he has considered the circumstances of place and time,” for the office of vicar forane (can. 544 §1). They may be appointed for a certain period of time determined by particular law, and the bishop can freely remove them from office for a just cause “in accord with his own prudent judgment” (can. 544 §2 & 3).
According to the archdiocesan policy for the office of vicar forane, the vicar forane is directly accountable to the vicar general, and at times, the vicar forane may need help in fulfilling specific responsibilities, to which he is authorized in such circumstances to delegate a suitable priest of his vicariate to assist him in carrying out his duties.
The policy states that to qualify, the vicar forane must be an ordained priest serving within the Archdiocese of Agaña. The vicar forane will normally be a pastor. If not, he should be a priest who has the stability of office to complete his term and who is in a position to carry out effectively the duties assigned to the vicariate. Since the vicar forane’s duties revolve primarily about his brother priests, he should be “highly esteemed by his peers, intelligent, prayerful, experienced, theologically sound, and a man noted for his pastoral commitment.”
Purpose of the Vicariate and Duties of the Vicar Forane
In accordance with the decree, vicariates serve to:
Foster better communications and cooperation among parishes as well as between the pastors and the archbishop;
Promote the sharing of resources among neighboring parishes; Coordinate ministry and programs on a regional basis; and Provide mutual support and fraternal assistance among clergy.
These canonical duties are listed in canon 555 of the Code. This means communicating and coordinating with all the priests are the responsibility of the vicar forane to assist them in uniting with one another, including all aspects of ministry, such as catechetical, liturgical, social, cultural, educational, missionary, charitable, etc. The vicar forane must also see to it that the clergy of his vicariate lead a life “in keeping with their state and perform their duties diligently.”
The vicar forane must also ensure that religious functions are celebrated according to the “prescripts of the sacred liturgy, that the beauty and elegance of churches and sacred furnishings” are preserved carefully, especially in the eucharistic celebration and care of the Most Blessed Sacrament. They must make certain that the parochial records are inscribed correctly and protected appropriately. They guarantee “ecclesiastical goods are administered carefully and that the rectory is cared for with proper diligence.” As he provides support and fraternal assistance to the other priests, his attentiveness must be understood in a pastoral sense.
His duty of providing support and counsel includes taking the initiative to encourage ongoing formation for the priests of his vicariate. This would include encouraging attendance of training and spiritual retreats, often done in coordination with diocesan programs. For priests who are sick, he is to supply them with spiritual aid and pastoral assistance, often in coordination with the Vicar for Clergy. The vicar forane is also obligated to visit the parishes of his vicariate.
Our new Vicariates and Vicars Forane
Consisting of six to seven parishes each, the four vicariates in the Archdiocese of Agaña are: the Northern Vicariate with Vicar Forane Father Danilo “Dan” Bien, pastor of Santa Barbara in Dededo; the Eastern Vicariate with Vicar Forane Father Manuel “Jun” Trenchera, Jr., pastor of the Nuestra Señora de las Aguas Parish in Mongmong; the Southern Vicariate with Vicar Forane Father Joseph “Jojo” Anore, parochial administrator of Inarajan’s St. Joseph Parish; and the Western Vicariate with Vicar Forane Father Romeo “Romy” Convocar, rector of the Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral-Basilica.
As mentioned earlier, the subject of vicariates has been in discussion among the priests of our archdiocese for months, even since last year. The discernment to choose the vicars forane was a careful, time-sensible method. Our four newly-appointed vicars forane have experiences with vicariates which are widely common in the Philippines. Humbled by the call of the archbishop, the four priests gladly stepped up to accept their assignments.
What will happen in the Archdiocese of Agaña?
How will the vicar forane fulfill their function of providing a common pastoral action in the Archdiocese of Agaña under the direction of Archbishop Byrnes? They will begin by organizing regular meetings with all the clergy of the vicariate in order to bring them together for the purpose of collaboration. Not only will they discuss ways in which they can help each other in these meetings, but they will also discuss how they can better serve the faithful in their vicariate in cooperation with archdiocesan objectives.
Concretely, the following are some duties of the vicar forane within their vicariates. Liturgically, they will coordinate Mass times in the vicariate, the dates for when their youth will receive the sacrament of confirmation, the times for regular confession, and assist in organizing workshops for various ministries such as the extraordinary ministers of holy Communion.
In the area of evangelization and catechesis, a “top focus” for Archbishop Byrnes, the vicar forane will work with the priests of their vicariates in promoting adult education classes, collaborating for classes of the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults, and organizing marriage enrichment programs as well as promoting archdiocesan and other events.
As for parish planning, the vicar forane will work to foster collaboration among parishes to make the best possible use of human and material resources, to organize sharing “best practices” with one another, to assist in financial matters, and avoid wasteful duplication of effort.
“When a pastor is appointed or re-appointed to a parish, the vicar general should consult with the local vicar forane about the needs of the parish and about the candidates under consideration,” the policy states. The vicar forane’s advice and recommendation will be reported by the vicar general to the archdiocesan bishop and the personnel assignment board.
Occasionally, the archbishop or vicar general may call on the vicar forane to serve on a committee commissioned to address questions concerning priest personnel or other pastoral matters related to his vicariate.