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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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 your worksheet.
  6. 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 your worksheet.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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 valuable.
  10. 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 record.
  11. 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

Steps 8 to 11 are optional. We are very happy to receive assignment records by snail mail (, 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 important work.

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

4.   Distinguished Priests: Background in the Official Catholic Directory

5.   Clergy Burial Grounds: Retirement and Death in the Official Catholic Directory

6.   Heal the Sick: Chaplains and Treatment in the Official Catholic Directory


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.