Recently the Archdiocese of Edmonton announced some new appointments at the senior leadership level, including Vicar General, Judicial Vicar, and Chancellor. Each of these positions is described in the Code of Canon Law, and each is appointed by the Archbishop to assist him in governance and/or administration of the archdiocese. However, the code does allow for variation in their particular duties, depending on the specific needs of a diocese. In this first of a series of articles on these people and what they do, we meet the Vicar General.

Rev. Jim Corrigan, Vicar General

The word vicar comes from the Latin vicarius, meaning "a substitute, deputy, proxy." The vicar general is a priest who assists the bishop in governing the diocese and has the power to act on his behalf as required. (Can. 475 §1.) He is the highest official in a diocese after the bishop. In the case of a sudden disability, death, or transfer of the bishop, the vicar general may be appointed as an Apostolic Administrator of a diocese, as a temporary measure until a new bishop is appointed.

Father Jim Corrigan, a priest of 14 years and current pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Sherwood Park, says he was deeply honoured by the additional appointment as Vicar General. The role has changed considerably over the years, he says, which means he will be able to handle the responsibilities of both roles.

“Fifty years ago, if the bishop was out of the country and out of contact, the vicar general was responsible for the day-to day administration of the diocese. However, in this day and age, the bishop is never really out of touch − he’s always a touch screen away − so the role is quite different today.”

So Father Jim does not need to be in the Pastoral and Administration Offices building every day. But he does travel to the campus regularly, since he is now an ex officio member of several archdiocesan committees, such as Episcopal Council, Presbyteral Council, Finance Committee, Project Review Committee, and Clergy Personnel Committee.

If the archbishop’s presence is requested for a special event, such as celebrating the opening Mass at a conference, the vicar general may be asked to fill in if the archbishop is unable to attend.

In addition, if the archbishop receives an inquiry about a particular issue at a parish or with a priest, the vicar general may be asked to look into it to discern the facts.

“Sometimes things might come to his ear that may or may not be true, so my job might be to find out what’s really going on, so that the bishop can have an informed conversation with the individual,” says Father Jim. “That’s one of the profound graces or magnitude of this role, because the last thing I want to be doing is giving him inaccurate information!”

“If anyone were to ask about my job, I would still say it’s to be pastor of OLPH Parish and to serve the people of God; that’s my primary role. My secondary role is to do whatever the bishop needs me to do on his behalf, and gladly so.  

“To summarize, I feel that I’m living the dream as a Catholic priest and pastor of a large parish, with no end to opportunity for ministry and lots of Catholic schools. To be appointed to this role is a grace and a blessing, but being a priest is really the great gift – everything else is gravy, if I can put it that way.”