SALT LAKE CITY — Fr. Kenneth Vialpando, pastor of St. Marguerite Parish, was recently appointed as vicar for clergy in the diocese.
A Utah native, Fr. Vialpando has served in many positions in the local Church. He was ordained for the Diocese of Salt Lake City by Bishop William K. Weigand on Aug. 24, 1991 in his home church of St. Marguerite’s while the Cathedral of the Madeline was undergoing renovation. He served as a religious education teacher at Judge Memorial Catholic High School and as parochial vicar at St. Therese of the Child Jesus and St. Ambrose parishes. He has been pastor of the parishes of St. Pius X, Our Lady of Guadalupe, St. Joseph (Ogden) and, currently, St. Marguerite.
The new assignment took him completely by surprise, he said.
“When the bishop mentioned to me that he had plans for me to work in the Pastoral Center as vicar for clergy, I was blown away, first of all, because I was honored that he would even consider me for a position like this, and second, because I was greatly humbled, and therefore I thought to myself, ‘This can’t be right – the bishop has the wrong guy for this ministry, and he doesn’t even know it,’” Fr. Vialpando said.
Fr. Vialpando said he sent Bishop Oscar A. Solis the same letter twice, in case he had missed it, with suggestions of other clergy who would be better for the job. He received no response until the bishop invited him to a meeting.
“I thought we were going to discuss it, but he already had the letter of appointment on his desk and just told me, ‘Here’s your new assignment,’” he said. “I realized I would have to practice the virtue of obedience.
“Even though I was apprehensive about my ability to do this ministry, I was honored that the bishop placed his confidence in me, and because of his faith in me, I am willing to give this position a 110 percent, if possible,” he said.
Bishop Solis later told the Intermountain Catholic he had chosen Fr. Vialpando for the position on the recommendation of the priests of the diocese who hold Fr. Vialpando in great esteem.
In the past, the responsibility for the role of vicar for clergy in the Diocese of Salt Lake City has fallen to the chancellor or vicar general, Msgr. Colin F. Bircumshaw, vicar general, said.
For several years, serving as vicar for clergy has been part of Msgr. Bircumshaw’s duties. However, the bishop feels that with the growth in the Church in the diocese, it is now time to split the responsibilities, Msgr. Bircumshaw said.
“These roles are usually done by auxiliary bishops in a large diocese,” Msgr. Bircumshaw said, and the Diocese of Salt Lake City has now grown “big enough that he needs more than one person, one priest, to fill these duties of vicar general, moderator for the curia and vicar for clergy.”
“It’s basically the bishop saying there’s too many jobs, too many hats, in the diocese for one person to do now,” he said. “I’m relieved … especially with Fr. Ken taking the position. I just really admire Fr. Ken; he’s well respected by the other clergy. … If we could clone Fr. Ken as a priest, we could fill every position. He’s dedicated, talented, likeable and has a great sense of humor.”
As vicar for clergy, Fr. Vialpando has several responsibilities. He attends to the needs of clergy, deals with complaints and comments, welcomes and orients priests coming from other dioceses or countries, helps new priests adjust, oversees preliminary investigation and maintains updated information regarding possible civil litigation regarding clerics. In this position, he serves 37 diocesan priests, 15 extern priests, 19 retired priests and 68 active deacons. The assignment does not have a specified term.
“It has already been enlightening; it has opened my eyes and will help make me a better priest,” said Fr. Vialpando, who has been serving as vicar for clergy on a limited basis since February, working one day a week at the pastoral center while continuing to serve as pastor of St. Marguerite’s. On Aug. 1, he will transition to working fulltime in the position.
“My mission and goal is to learn from my brother priests and to support and walk with them,” he said.