1. How to Create an Assignment
Record in a Few Easy Steps
Researching the assignment record
of a priest is painstaking but rewarding work. A basic assignment record
can be developed during a two- or three-hour visit to a good library.
No computer skills are required. A computer is useful for supplementing
the Official Catholic Directory's information, but this optional
part of the process (steps 8 to 11 below) can be done in the library's
newspaper room, or in a local newspaper's archive.
Accuracy is very important in this work, because even a little mistake
(say, the wrong middle initial) can result in an innocent priest's being
included in our assignment records of accused and convicted priests. We
are looking for detail-oriented volunteers. The average Official Catholic
Directory weighs about 5 pounds, so researching the 50-year career
of a priest also entails a certain amount of heavy lifting, and the print
is very small. But if you're careful about details, comfortable rooting
around in big books, and able to read the small print, you're qualified.
No knowledge of the hierarchy or the politics of a diocese is required.
Here's how the process goes:
- Locate a Set of Official Catholic
Directories - Call reference librarians at Catholic
college libraries and central city libraries near you, and ask whether
they have a complete set of the Official Catholic Directory
for the years you need. The publisher is P.J. Kenedy & Sons. Note
that libraries often misspell the publisher's name, and there are several
publications with similar titles. "Official" in the title
is important. See the publisher's
Web site and try to verify the appearance of the books with a reference
librarian before you make the trip. The Official Catholic Directory
usually does not circulate, and the volumes you will need in order to
verify a priest's entire career will sometimes fill a large bookcase.
So you will be visiting the library to do your work.
- Select a Priest - You
may already know what priest you want to research. But if you'd like
help in selecting a priest, pick one from our database
of accused priests. Or email
us and we can suggest a priest for you to research.
- Select a Year to Start
- If possible, pick a year
in which you are sure the priest was active. Otherwise you may have
to dip into the Official Catholic Directory in several years
before you find the priest.
- Look Up the Priest in That Year
- First find him in the index (see Guide Article
2), being careful about the spelling of his name and any middle
initial. Then use the index entry to find him in the fuller pages for
his diocese. The abbreviations for each diocese are listed at the front
of the diocesan pages. There are many priests (particularly Irish priests)
with very similar or even identical names. Be careful to look up the
correct priest. Log the information you find on a worksheet, which will
grow to look like this sample
as you do steps 5 and 6.
- Work Forward from Your Sample Year
- Look up the priest in subsequent years through to his retirement (and
death, if he is no longer living). If he appears in the Official
Catholic Directory for 1988 or a later year, the index will provide
you with his year of ordination. Add the information for each year to
- Work Backward from Your Sample Year
- Look up the priest in previous years, until you reach the year after
his ordination (see step 5), or until he "disappears" from
the Official Catholic Directory because he was in the last
year of seminary in that year. Add the information for each year to
- Consolidate Your Worksheet to Create
a Draft Assignment Record - If a priest is first listed
in a parish in the Official Catholic Directory for a given
year, that means that he was working in that parish on January 1 of
that year. So he must have come to that parish sometime during the year
previous. Consolidate your worksheet to create a draft assignment record
in the format of the Avila
assignment record, indicating "start" and "stop"
years for each parish assignment.
- Look Up the Priest Using Google and
Local Newspaper Archives on the Web - If stories provide
"start" and "stop" dates, modify your draft assignment
record accordingly, saving the source articles in a separate Word file
or noting their URLs in the Notes section of your draft assignment record.
- Save a Picture of the Priest
- If the newspapers provide a picture of the priest, save it in a separate
file. Pictures of the priest at several stages of his career are especially
- Determine Accusation and Abuse Dates
from Newspaper Articles - If the newspaper articles
mention when the priest was accused and when he allegedly committed
the abuses, note those dates in the comment field of the assignment
- Send the Assignment Record and Supporting
Materials to Us - Attach the assignment record, worksheet,
newspaper article file, and the picture(s) of the priest to an email
and send the package to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Steps 8 to 11 are optional. We are very happy to receive assignment records
by snail mail (BishopAccountability.org,
Inc., P.O. Box 541375, Waltham, MA 02454-1375) or over the
phone. So you don't need a computer or access to the Internet to do this
In the following sections of this guide, we describe features and peculiarities
of the Official Catholic Directory by placing the research in
context. We've traveled around to parishes taking pictures, and we've
done background research to amplify the terse and incomplete evidence
of the Official Catholic Directory. We hope this helps explain
these peculiar books, but if the background stories don't interest you,
just skim them for the examples. Many thanks for your interest!
Links to the entire Guide:
1. How to Create
a Assignment Record in a Few Easy Steps
2. Last Year at
St. Anthony's: Looking Up a Priest in the Official Catholic Directory
2a. Are There
Gaps in the Parish Records of the Official Catholic Directory?
3. Parish School
and Festival: Transfers in the Official Catholic Directory
Priests: Background in the Official Catholic Directory
Burial Grounds: Retirement and Death in the Official Catholic Directory
6. Heal the Sick:
Chaplains and Treatment in the Official Catholic Directory