The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench


Los Angeles installs first lay parish administrator

posted by deacon greg kandra

California, birthplace of trends, may have just given birth to another: the first layman has been appointed in Los Angeles to act as a pastoral administrator at a parish:

Like many in his religion, Humberto Ramos prayed regularly for God’s help in relieving the priest shortage plaguing the Roman Catholic Church.

But the father of six never dreamed he would be part of the answer.

On a recent Sunday, Ramos became the first layman in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles to take over the administration of a parish – a role traditionally held by a priest.

“While these are big shoes to fill, I know coming in that this is something where I can contribute and something being experienced across the country,” said Ramos, 42, who will be responsible for the spiritual and pastoral leadership at St. Marcellinus Parish in East Los Angeles.

Ramos’ appointment as a parish-life director was prompted by a significant shortage of clergy, as well as the retirement of the Rev. Jules Meyer, the parish’s previous pastor.

“Humberto’s appointment is historic for the archdiocese,” said Alex Jacinto, a Catholic lay activist

“With the archdiocese now so overwhelmingly Latino, it’s also important that the first lay pastor of a parish happens to be Latino.

Ramos’ appointment also underscores the dramatic changes shaping the Catholic Church. In the L.A. archdiocese, three nuns and a deacon also serve as parish life directors, entrusted with the leadership of a congregation without a resident pastor.

The neighboring Diocese of San Bernardino has some 15 parishes led by nonpriests, according to Ramos.
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But the transition to parish-life directors has not been easy. Some U.S. dioceses have chosen to close viable parishes rather than empower lay ministers and deacons.

Los Angeles, the nation’s largest diocese, with more than 4million Catholics, annually ordains just a handful of priests.

In the next five years, the San Fernando Region of the diocese, which encompasses the the San Fernando Valley, will have an estimated 40percent fewer pastors than it does today.

Ramos was installed in a ceremony officiated by the Rev. Gabino Zavala, auxiliary bishop of the San Gabriel Region.

In his new position, Ramos will oversee the day-to-day pastoral and administrative tasks, while also coordinating and arranging for an ordained priest to celebrate Mass, hear confessions and administer communion and the other Sacraments.

He’ll also participate Sunday in the Feast of the Virgin of Guadalupe celebration in East L.A.

Although pastors normally reside on parish premises, Ramos will continue to live at his home in Temple City. Another priest currently assigned to St. Marcellinus will reside at the rectory.

“The cardinal (Roger Mahony) has said not all priests are called to be pastors,” said Ramos, who has worked for the church almost a quarter-century, including the past 19 years with the archdiocese.

I know of a few other places where this is becoming more common, including a parish not far from where I grew up in Maryland. But I suspect Los Angeles will be in the vanguard; the cardinal archbishop there has expressed an interest in developing this idea, and this may be just the beginning.

Personally, I’d like to see more deacons in this role, as well.

Meantime, the diocesan newspaper has more details about Humberto Ramos’ installation and his family.

Photo: by Sr. Nancy Munro, CSJ



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Comments read comments(17)
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Pete

posted December 1, 2007 at 9:13 am


My parish is part of the above mentioned diocese of San Bernardino. We are just a small part of a HUGE geographic area. Two years ago, we were assigned a lay pastoral coordinator and a priest minister. It has been the greatest move ever made. This leadership model is muchmisunderstood, but it really works well here!



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Anonymous

posted December 1, 2007 at 11:14 am


“Los Angeles, the nation’s largest diocese, with more than 4 million Catholics, annually ordains just a handful of priests.”…and now there will be even fewer. Necessity is the mother of all things. If you diminish the role of the priest, you will diminish their necessity. If you diminish their necessity, their numbers will diminish. Take note Catholic parents, there is no longer a need to encourage your children to become priests. Continue to encourage them to be lawyers and accountants and dream of big houses in the suburbs (which is the real reason for the priest shortage). If they feel the calling to the priesthood, tell them to ignore it. They can sideline as a lay priest -er pastor, while still enjoying all the pleasures of secular living!



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Pete

posted December 1, 2007 at 11:54 am


“…not all priests are called to be pastors…”Just as in a school district, not all teachers have the makings of administrators (fortunately). The priest minister, freed from administrative duties is now able to do the things most needed by a priest. No longer does he need to worry about utility bills, capital campaigns, etc. In our diocese, vocations are on the upswing.



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Daniel

posted December 1, 2007 at 4:37 pm


This isn’t about paying bills. If that were the case, they could’ve hired a secretary. When you hire a secretary, you don’t dress someone in ecclesiastic robes and perform a quasi-sacred rite over them. This is about the attempt to establish a new order.



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Anonymous

posted December 1, 2007 at 6:10 pm


In the early Church, when priests were unavailable to administer a parish (usually out in the boondocks) an ordained deacon was put in charge. So what is the fear of doing the same today–following an established ancient Church tradition. I agree with some who think there is a lot of behind the scenes radicalism promoting married priests and priestesses that is keeping deacons from being used to the level they could be used.



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Anonymous

posted December 1, 2007 at 8:06 pm


Hmmm… if two nuns already occupy this position in other parishes, then the archdiocese already has two of the laity (granted, not laymen as parish life administrators, or whatever. Deacons are members of the clergy, while nuns and religious brothers are laity.



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Daniel

posted December 1, 2007 at 10:44 pm


When a practice has been abandoned for over a thousand years, it doesn’t qualify as tradition. Also, it is being hailed as an “historic” breakthrough, not a nod to tradition. That being said, in extreme cases, I can see where a deacon could be used as a temporary, interim solution until a priest could be found. But what went on in San Bernadino (based on this article), was an official deputizing of an unconsecrated layman to a permanent position “responsible for the spiritual and pastoral leadership” of a parish.That is radical activism.



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Paul Stokell

posted December 2, 2007 at 12:01 am


Cardinal Mahony has been leery of appointing deacons as parish administrators, and has said as much: “When there is an overemphasis on his liturgical function, and on parochial duties, there is a tendency to see the diaconate as a partial realization of the priesthood. And as should be abundantly clear, this it is not. Ordination to the diaconate is not a share in the ministerial priesthood. It is a distinct order sacramentalizing the primacy of charity in the Church.” (I quoted him in my thesis on the diaconate a few years back.)Looking at the recent document “Co-Workers in the Vineyard of the Lord,” I find the ceremony pictured a bit much, blurring the lines between legitimately installing a qualified individual as a pastoral administrator (CIC 517 § 2) and “sacramentalizing” the act in a paraliturgy. A reception would have been better.Still and all, it is good to see that lay men are being tapped for this ministry (and it truly is that) as well as women and religious. We need more lay men in roles such as these.



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Pete

posted December 2, 2007 at 7:07 am


Agreed, Paul. Our pastoral coordinator was installed with no “sacramentalizing” and little fanfare. Our priest minister prizes the freedom he has to be a priest, and not an administrator. As far as deacons in the role of pastoral coordinator…that is certainly not something that I would choose to do upon my ordination (two more weeks!), but I would not think it was wrong for a deacon to do so if he felt it was an appropriate facet of his diaconal ministry. I don’t think this opinion makes me radical or activist.



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Daniel

posted December 2, 2007 at 9:44 am


It looks like we’ve finally gotten to the root of the problem with the old Church. She didn’t realize the importance of personal comfort and self actualization. I guess I should be happy that the new modern churchmen have such freedom to pick and choose the duties they prefer. Maybe the “spiritual and pastoral leadership” of a parish is a distasteful burden to priests and should be left up to the laity.



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Pete

posted December 2, 2007 at 11:23 am


Well, I don’t think the “spiritual” leadership is a burden for most (hope not!), but I can see how the “pastoral” part can be difficult, perhaps burdensome, and often can lead to burn-out.



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Joseph

posted December 2, 2007 at 11:56 am


“burn out”…Just trying to read where St. Paul, St. Peter, any of the other Apostles, the Early Fathers, or any of the other Saints and Martyrs suffered from “burn out”. Apparently, the priesthood to Americans has become just another career path. Maybe we are worse off than I thought.



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Pete

posted December 2, 2007 at 12:07 pm


It certainly is NOT a “career path” in conventional terms…and never should be. Having said that, though…have you never seen a priest suffering from depression, stress, or the bad health that results from “burn-out symptoms”?



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Daniel

posted December 2, 2007 at 1:46 pm


Are we saying that delicate flowers need to be kept in a hothouse? Leave the heavy lifting for the worldly? The bishops already lack the resources or the energy to maintain discipline in their dioceses. Free-thinking laity who pick and choose which practices and norms to adhere to in their pastoral ministry will lead to greater secularization of particular parishes and greater heterogeneity among parishes and dioceses.



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Brendan McGrath

posted December 2, 2007 at 6:04 pm


It seems to me that they really should have gone to a deacon before a lay person, and that if they go to a lay person, they should definitely go to a nun or a brother before someone not in religious life. By the way, I’m curious; is there a shortage of priets in the Eastern Catholic Churches, i.e., where they can ordain married men?



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Joseph

posted December 5, 2007 at 2:38 pm


“…have you never seen a priest suffering from depression, stress, or the bad health that results from “burn-out symptoms”?”Pete,I have no doubt that a life in the priesthood is more demanding than any secular occupation in existence. It’s supposed to be, and priests are supposed to be willing to accept it. Have I seen priests suffering from burn-out symptoms? No. The priests that I have read about having nervous breakdowns or other problems seem to always be involved in various scandals. In those cases, I think it is obviously their conscience tearing them apart.On the other hand I have read of bishops and priests who all went administered the Sacraments underground, who spent years in prison, who were tortured, and who were martyred for their faith without flinching. They followed the lead of Our Lord and His Apostles, the original bishops. St. Ignatius even implored the Romans not to impede his martyrdom in any way (in which he was torn apart by wild beasts). If one is a priest suffering from “burn-out” because of the everyday grind of baptisms, Mass, confessions, and hosting donut/coffee events in the parish hall, maybe one needs to finally begin to reflect on the holy priests before him; those who did not suffer from “burn-out” continuing to teach and confer the Sacraments with a very serious threat to their lives always following close behind; a destiny that they would inevitably meet with no complaint or nervous breakdown.The priesthood is for real men, not metrosexuals. Men who want to die for their faith; soldiers in a spiritual war. If a seminarian is not manly enough to be a priest and accept the cross that is given to him instead of requesting a smaller one, then he shouldn’t be ordained. I’m sure you’ll find the same thing I just said in the Scriptures and the Fathers too.



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Boo

posted July 12, 2009 at 11:33 am


Hi, I would like to share with you a good ebook that's free to help pastors and their wives with discouragement and burnout. You can find it at: http://www.stoppastorburnout.com . It's quite helpful. If you have pastor friends or even their wives, they are currently inviting pastors and pastor wives to join charter membership club for free for 2 months,you might want to share this with them. You may visit http://www.susandavidlifecoach.com/index.php/sponsors for more information. They would also like to invite you to view our video on this topic athttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=miF-R0bCz0A. Feel free to share this with your friends or people you care for.Thanks,



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