Ensuring the life of the Church in the parish: the pastoral delegate

» What you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses, entrust to trustworthy men who will be able to teach it to others, in their turn. (2 Tim 2:2).


On the initiative of Mgr Lucien Daloz, Archbishop of Besançon, the Pastoral Delegates (DP) were created in October 2002, primarily in parishes where there was no resident priest (four delegates). His successor, Mgr André Lacrampe, in consultation with his presbyteral council, wanted the experiment to continue, with the possibility of appointing a DP in a parish in which the parish priest resides.

The largely positive experience, both in the work accomplished and in the testimony given of a Church living a true missionary co-responsibility, means that today more than half of the parishes benefit from a pastoral delegate.

As Archbishop of Besançon, I asked that every parish raise up, discern and challenge a DP. A diocesan official at the service of the accompaniment of the PD and the Pastoral Coordination Teams (ECP) was called and sent on mission in order to allow each parish to benefit from the presence of a DP and to accompany them in their mission. .

» Associated with the very mission of Christ, we are called to take our part and our place in the advent of the Kingdom of God. Each of us receives from God a particular vocation (…). Some are called to serve as bishops, priests, deacons and laity in ecclesial mission. In various capacities, they exercise a ministry necessary for the life of the DP of the diocesan Church. It is not a matter of recognition, but of a service requested for the life of the Church « . Bishop Jean-Luc Bouilleret, Pastoral letter of September 8, 2016, p. 11.


The DP is usually a lay person who, by virtue of his baptism, responds to a call to serve the Church. He is appointed by the bishop. He participates in the pastoral management of the community under the authority of the parish priest. With the other members of the ECP, he is concerned with revealing the presence of Christ in the midst of his people and ensures the mission of the Church in the parish: to announce, celebrate, serve. These three charges are at the service of an all-encompassing reality which is the “cura”: care. This mission is at the service of God and people. The care of souls is a theological and spiritual reality pertaining to the mystery of faith.


With the other members of the ECP, the pastoral delegate bears witness to the joy of the Gospel, maintains fraternal communion and encourages new vocations.

The DP works closely with the parish priest in a spirit of trust and synodality. Together, they give birth to and encourage pastoral and missionary initiatives, prepare the agenda of the ECP and transmit it to all. In agreement with the parish priest, the DP can convene and animate the meeting of the ECP. He makes sure that a member of the team writes the report and that it is sent to everyone.

The DP has the concern to make known and implement the reference documents of the diocese, to connect the various authorities on a common project (ex: catechesis, liturgy, service of the poor). He is in contact with the parish and/or deanery secretariat.

The priest and the DP, with the members of the ECP

• define, on the basis of the synod acts, the projects and priorities of the parish and/or the deanery. They coordinate pastoral actions and their planning. They ensure the implementation of the decisions made in the ECP and that people (pole referents or team managers) monitor the progress and completion of the projects;

• call new people (catechesis, liturgy, evangelical service of the sick, etc.). The PD does not “instead of” but develops the capacity of commitment of the baptized;

• oversee the proper functioning of the parish community. They make sure that the members of the community take care of the administrative tasks (permanence of reception, accounts, archives, registers of catholicity, etc.) as well as the questions of organization (who does: what? when? how? ).

The PCE must be, for the DP, a real support and promote the exercise of his responsibility and vice versa. Everything must be done to create within the team a fraternal and convivial atmosphere, in order to allow dialogue and collaboration in trust, in the light of the Holy Spirit, at the service of the good of the community.


The pastoral delegate is a person

• baptized and confirmed, rooted in the sacramental life of the Church, who has a life of personal faith (prays, is nourished by the Word of God and the Eucharist) and participates in community gatherings;

• who knows the realities of the parish and has experience of ecclesial life (often a member of the current or previous ECP);

• of communion, pacifying and witnessing to hope. She connects, works in a team and knows how to delegate. She draws closeness through an attitude of dialogue: she has human qualities of listening, attention to people, open-mindedness and heart, understanding and discretion. She acts with diplomacy, benevolence and knows how to take the necessary distance depending on the situation.


The mission is entrusted for three years, usually renewable once. At the time of his call, the pastoral delegate is less than 70 years old and his mission does not go beyond 75 years.

Consent of husband or wife (if applicable) is required.

Depending on the concrete reality of the place, the residence or not of the parish priest in the parish, the availability of the DP and the commitment of the parishioners, the priest and the DP define their collaboration and the time to devote to the mission ( between 8 and 15 hours per week).

The Pastoral Delegate

• meets regularly with the parish priest, in mutual trust and listening, generally once a week. When there is a change of pastor, the terms of this collaboration have to be readjusted;

• is a full member of the ECP. He takes part in the meetings of the ECP (once a month) and in the deanery meetings (dean/parish priests/DP);

• is in contact with the persons in charge or the referents of the services and movements of the parish or the deanery;

• he can be the parish priest’s representative in relations with civil society.

Expenses related to the exercise of the mission (travel, subscription to the magazine Church of Besançon, administrative costs, etc.) are reimbursed by the parish or the deanery.


It is desirable that the DP has already undergone initial training (ThéoFIL for example) and training in responsibility (ThéoFOR). If this is not the case, these training courses will be offered to him.

In addition, the DP participates, each year, in the training days offered by the diocese (meetings of the DP, of the episcopal council/parish priests/DP, training morning of the ECP).


As soon as the search for a DP begins, the parish priest contacts the diocesan person in charge of the accompaniment of DPs and ECPs. The members of the ECP reflect personally and then collectively on the people likely to be called. Together, they engage in discernment in discretion and prayer.

The parish priest calls out to the person approached and presents the mission to him using the reference text. He keeps the diocesan official informed, who in turn contacts her. After this meeting, the person called takes the time for discernment and gives his answer to the diocesan responsible who confirms the bishop’s call to the new DP and to the parish priest. At the same time, the parish community is prepared to welcome the DP.

The DP is officially sent on mission during a Sunday Eucharistic celebration, surrounded by the parish priest and other members of the ECP. This commitment rooted in the Word of God and prayer is lived as an act of faith. The bishop or the vicar general gives him the letter of mission.

(For more information, see the document “How to call a DP?”)

NB: When the DP comes from the ECP, the pole assigned to it becomes vacant. It is then necessary to look for a new member and to inform the diocesan person in charge who will rewrite the letter of mission of the ECP.


• The diocesan leader accompanies and supports the DP throughout his mission. They will meet as often as necessary. Every three years, the DP reviews his mission with the diocesan leader and with the parish priest;

• The DP participates in the time of spiritual renewal of the ECP. He is invited to the annual retreat for lay people in ecclesial mission (LME) offered by the diocesan service of formation. To support him in his mission, spiritual accompaniment is recommended;

• During the mission, the DP may be confronted with specific situations (moving, illness, etc.) and sometimes with difficulties or conflicts. In case of major disagreement, mediation will be proposed by the diocesan leader. In consultation with the latter, the mission can be reconsidered.

» I ardently hope that we will pursue the call to all the ministries in our Church: priests, deacons, lay people in ecclesial mission and especially pastoral delegates. […]. May all the baptized in our diocese listen to the voice of the Lord who calls everyone to take part in the life of the Church for the proclamation of the Gospel « . Pastoral letter of September 8, 2016.


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