Brian T. Olszewski, The Catholic Virginian

Stating he hoped “local parishes, schools, and campus ministries can increase their collaborative  efforts to best use our limited resources,” Bishop Barry C. Knestout announced Thursday, Sept. 27, that, effective that date, he was replacing the Diocese of Richmond’s LPA (Local Planning Area) structure that had been in place since 2008 with 15 deaneries, each overseen by a pastor who will serve as a vicar forane, more commonly referred to as a dean.

In explaining the change to a deanery structure, the bishop noted it is something “the Church has long had in place and is recommended to bishops to assist him in his role of governance.”

The responsibilities of a dean are included in the Code of Canon Law and detailed in the Vatican Congregation for Bishops’ “Directory for the Pastoral Ministry of Bishops,” which states:

“The vicar forane (dean) holds an office of considerable pastoral importance: he is a close collaborator with the bishop in pastoral care of the faithful, and an attentive ‘elder brother’ towards the priests of the deanery, especially those who are ill or in difficult situations. 

“It falls to him to coordinate the common pastoral activity of the parishes, to see to it that priests are living lives in conformity with their state and that parochial discipline is duly observed, particularly with regard to the liturgy.”

Bishop Knestout said the deanery structure would provide him with a closer connection to the nearly 150 parishes and missions in the diocese.

“Through the leadership of the dean, 

I am confident that pastoral care for those on the peripheries found in places such as hospitals, prisons, and nursing homes can be further enhanced through stronger coordination and support,” he said. “Furthermore, I will count on each dean to identify members of the lay faithful in their deanery who can consult on a variety of regional and diocesan priorities.”

The bishop appointed the deans to three-year terms, effective Thursday, Nov. 1, 2018. The formal form of address for a dean is “Very Reverend.” When that is used, the initials “V.F.” (vicar forane) follow his name.

Editor’s note: Bishop Knestout’s letter announcing the establishment of deaneries can be found at