Fr. Reilley returns to Rome after his studies to work for the Holy See

Fr. Reilley will never lose his way to his office in Rome. It’s in front of St. Peter’s Basilica. (Courtesy photo)

Before Fr. Patrick Reilley opens the door to his office building he sees the obelisk that St. Peter may have gazed upon when he was crucified, and behind it one of the most magnificent buildings in the world, St. Peter’s Basilica.

Just another day at the office.

Fr. Reilley, who was ordained in 2010, is back in Rome. There was little cultural shock, though. The diocesan priest lived in the Eternal City from June 2019 to July 2022 while studying for a degree in Canon Law.

Cappuccini e cornetti

It wasn’t that Fr. Reilley wasn’t doing a good job as a canon lawyer for the Diocese of Wichita that he is now working for the Vatican, or that he missed his morning cappuccino and cornetto – it was the Holy See’s persistence.

Bishop Carl A. Kemme approved a repeated request by the Vatican to borrow Fr. Reilley from the diocese for five years.

The bishop said the Diocese of Wichita should consider it a great honor that one of our priests has been requested to work for the Holy See.
His work blesses us

“Although we will miss Father Reilley and his service here at home, the service he now offers to the pope and his central offices is a blessing for the universal church, which in turn blesses us,” the bishop said.

“This is one more way we can live the stewardship way of life, by generously sharing a few of our priests beyond our borders.”

Fr. Reilley is working for the Dicastery for the Clergy, which, in general, deals with matters relating to priests, deacons, and pastoral ministry.

Worldwide perspective

“We go over things that come into us from all over the world,” he said last week. “I generally deal with things that are written in English. Depending on what it is, we study the matter, look at the law and the facts, and write up a report for the superiors suggesting a possible solution. The superiors then decide what to do. Once a decision is made, it goes out to the person who wrote about the matter.”

One example might involve financial transactions, he said.

“There are certain limits to financial transactions for dioceses and parishes, so when that financial transaction exceeds the limit established by the conference of bishops, then they have to ask for permission from the Holy See in order to carry out that transaction. They’ll send us the pertinent information about the transaction and we make a judgment regarding whether that transaction respects the norms in the Code of Canon Law.”

The Dicastery for the Clergy has competence over matters involving disciplinary issues of priests and deacons that don’t involve reserved delicts (violations of the law), such as heresy or the sexual abuse of minors. The office also has competency over the priestly formation involving seminaries and seminarians.

Fr. Reilley’s first day at work was on Aug. 21. Although he is familiar with Rome and relatively fluent in Italian, he said, his work for the Vatican is requiring him to hone his language skills.

Honing his Italian language skills

“It’s a different kind of experience going from a passive listening of Italian – like in a class and having to give answers for exams – to working in Italian with Italians and having to navigate that world and those cultural differences. So, my Italian is good but it needs to get better.”

Many of the Vatican dicastery offices are located in the two-facing buildings just past the colonnades, the two arms that surround the piazza.
“It’s a great honor and joy to work for the universal church because there are lots of things that touch our lives, everybody’s lives in the church,” he said. “The people I have met so far have been excellent individuals who are doing the ordinary work of serving the church in the various dicasteries.”

Fr. Reilley lives at the Villa Stritch, about three miles south of the Vatican, with 15 other English-speaking priests.