Three parishes will be served by three priests ‘in solidum’
By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
When Father Ed O’Melia retires as pastor of St. Mary Parish in Davenport this year, St. Mary’s and St. Alphonsus Parish, also in Davenport, and St. Peter Parish in Buffalo will enter a unique relationship. With the goal of maintaining the three as distinct, vibrant parishes, Bishop Martin Amos will entrust their pastoral care to three priests in solidum — a term that means “in solidarity” in Latin.
Father Paul Appel, current pastor of St. Alphonsus and St. Peter’s; Father Chris Young, the parishes’ parochial vicar; and a third priest, to be named later, will begin their new pastoral responsibilities July 1.
Canon law (Can 517§1) allows the pastoral care of a parish or different parishes together to be entrusted to several priests in solidum. Exercising pastoral care in this way requires one of the three priests to serve as moderator, the one who directs the joint action and answers for it to the bishop. Fr. Appel will serve as moderator. He also has been appointed to a six-year term as the Davenport Diocese’s judicial vicar.
Fr. Appel recommended the assignment in solidum to Bishop Amos because of the need for flexibility in serving the Spanish language community, the Latin Mass community, and a diverse Anglo community.
“Since Fr. Appel is both a pastor and the judicial vicar, his time is limited. To supervise two parochial vicars seemed to ask too much,” Bishop Amos said. “I thought his suggestion, contained in the Code of Canon Law as a possibility, seemed the best for the parishes, tribunal and individuals involved.”
Three priests taking a team approach to the pastoral care of these communities makes sense and looks toward long-term planning for future clustering of parishes, Fr. Appel noted. “Each priest assigned to the three parishes is endowed with the qualities required of a pastor.” That means each can preside at Mass, administer the sacraments, attend parish council meetings and fulfill the other duties of a pastor. As moderator, Fr. Appel will guide and lead the parishes while the other two priests will concentrate on pastoral activity. Fr. Young, who has been teaching part-time at Assumption High School in Davenport, will serve full-time in parish ministry July 1.
“I’m still discerning what this could mean for the three parishes and the other two priests, but I am excited by the concept,” Fr. Young said. “Each parish has its particular DNA but my hope is for a closer collaboration between the members of these three parishes with respect to worshipping the Lord and discipleship in his one vineyard. I think of how already some of the men of St. Peter’s and St. Al’s teamed up successfully last year to form a single Knights of Columbus Council for both parishes.”
Fr. Young believes the in solidum arrangement enhances the ability of priests serving in different settings to bring talents and needs to the attention of people who may otherwise not have known about them. Meanwhile, “the details of day-to-day ministry duties for me will be unfolding in this coming year. I will be somewhat more involved with one parish community than the others by virtue of the fact that I will be residing at St. Mary’s,” Fr. Young said.
Collaboration among the three priests and with the parishes will be essential. The three parishes already share a coordinator of youth ministry with St. Anthony Parish in Davenport and St. Andrew Parish in Blue Grass. St. Alphonsus and St. Mary’s share a bookkeeper. Additional collaboration in programs such as the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA), religious education, janitorial services, staff training and utilization of space also may be feasible. St. Alphonsus has a fairly large school building with plenty of space available.
Fr. Appel reiterated that this new way of ministering to St. Alphonsus, St. Mary’s and St. Peter’s “does not mean any one of the three parishes will be closed or receive less attention. This is being done specifically so these parishes can be vibrant, active and worshiping communities.” This model of ministry “may benefit other parishes in the future.”