The formation, mentoring, and socialization of the associate pastor into the pastorate in the Roman Catholic Church

Francis Kwame Sam, Fordham University


Each year Catholic dioceses across the world appoint associate pastors to leadership of pastorates as pastors. Yet most ecclesiastical and sociological studies on the professional life of the clergy have focused on the pastor with limited references to the associate pastor. Since Vatican II, dioceses and parishes in the United States have witnessed the increased attrition of priests. This phenomenon has increased the involvement of the laity in leadership of parish programs. This qualitative study utilized in-depth phenomenological interviews to examine how associate pastors prepare for the leadership of parishes. The researcher interviewed nine pastors and associates. Of the nine, four were pastors, one was a parochial administrator, and four were associate pastors. The data from the study revealed the following findings: (1) Participants experienced informal parish-related mentoring from their pastors and the laity. Moreover, the pastors and parochial vicars did not refer to themselves as mentors and mentees respectively. (2) Both associate pastors and pastors noticed a growth in their development, with regard to parish leadership, human relations, and management of plant and resources as they fulfilled their assignments. (3) Participants learned their skills of liturgical and parish leadership by observing and learning from their pastors. However, the pastors noted a weakness in the socialization process because they felt they were not formally involved in parish administration during their associate pastor years. (4) Parochial vicars and pastors share a common characteristic in their roles as spiritual leaders of the pastorates. They refer to themselves as shepherds, yet associates are shepherds in a subordinate way. (5) The laity influenced the clergy during their formation and socialization. Consequently, participants sought to promote the leadership of the laity by utilizing the laity's skills in the parishes. The study recommends that diocesan bishops and personnel boards research the promotion of graduate studies and seminars on leadership, managerial, and financial skills, especially for the clergy in their last associate pastor years.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Sam, Francis Kwame, "The formation, mentoring, and socialization of the associate pastor into the pastorate in the Roman Catholic Church" (1995). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9543461.