Priests’ assignment titles circulate around the local Church in the summer months as many clergy change assignments. Each title has a unique designation, based on canon law, reflecting the role for a priest in a parish or institution such as a school or hospital. Here’s a quick look at what each of the titles mean.
Pastor: Under the bishop’s authority, the priest has responsibility for the pastoral care and governance of a particular parish — the sacraments, administration and teaching. The assignment is considered stable and long term, usually for six years or more.
Parochial administrator: A priest temporarily placed in a parish to fulfill the role of a pastor for the sacraments, administration and teaching. The bishop determines the scope and length of the assignment. In the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, some parochial administrators move on to become pastor at the same parish, while others simply care for a parish until the pastor returns or another is appointed. Locally, parochial administrators report to a supervisory pastor, a priest with experience as a pastor who can offer guidance for the parochial administrator in serving the parish.
Parochial vicar: Under the authority of the pastor or parochial administrator, the parochial vicar assists in the pastoral care of the parish. Some parishes informally call parochial vicars “associate pastors.”
Sacramental minister: A priest who helps out with the sacraments at a parish. He doesn’t need to live at the parish and typically has a full-time assignment elsewhere, such as to a school or hospital.
Chaplain: A priest assigned to provide regular pastoral care for a school, hospital or other non-parish entity, or specific Catholic groups, such as those who worship in a particular language.
Rector: A priest in charge of an institution, oftentimes a cathedral, basilica or seminary. If the cathedral or basilica has a parish, then the rector could also serve in a dual role as pastor of the parish community.
— Matthew Davis
From the Archdiocese Clergy Newsletter