Story by S.L. Hansen
(SNR) - There are many people who help the Diocese of Lincoln run smoothly, and at the hub of all their efforts is the chancellor.
The role of chancellor is required in the Code of Canon Law. The chancellor is responsible for making sure that every official action of the diocese is handled and recorded properly. He also serves as notary and secretary for the diocese.
Since 2008, Father Daniel Rayer has been chancellor for the Diocese of Lincoln.
He grew up in St. Catherine Parish in Indianola. After graduating from the public high school in Bartley, he attended the University of Nebraska at Kearney (UNK), taking general studies and business courses for three years.
It was during his years at UNK that Father Rayer began feeling a pull toward a priestly vocation.
“There was no one thing, but multiple things that happened,” he said.
One of the first of these was attending World Youth Day in Denver the summer between his freshman and sophomore years, which “got the ball rolling,” he said.
Other hints – including an acolyte back home suggesting the idea, and a direct question by Father Art Faesser of the Diocese of Grand Island at the UNK Newman Center – led Father Rayer to realize his priestly vocation.
At the time, however, the Diocese of Lincoln didn’t have its own college-level seminary yet.
Arrangements were made for a philosophy professor from Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia to come to Lincoln for the summer. Father Rayer and a handful of other men – including Fathers Gary Coulter and Christopher Kubat – were give a special set of classes so that they could go on to major seminary that autumn.
After graduating from Mt. Saint Mary Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md., Father Rayer was ordained. His first six years as a priest were spent teaching at Pius X High School in Lincoln and serving at Saint Mary, North American Martyrs and Saint Joseph parishes in Lincoln.
Then, Bishop Bruskewitz sent Father Rayer to Rome to study Canon Law. He earned his degree at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross and returned to the Diocese of Lincoln in 2008 to become chancellor.
Father Rayer’s days are busy. He fills out paperwork to send to the apostolic nuncio in Washington D.C. as well as the Holy See. He certifies the authenticity of the bishop’s signature on every decree – such as the recent decree declaring the pilgrimage sites for the Year of Consecrated Life – and handles many other documents as well, keeping paper and electronic copies of everything.
“There is a lot of detail work,” Father Rayer said.
Being the curia’s notary has its exciting moments, including Bishop James D. Conley’s installation in November 2012.
“When a new bishop is installed, he has to show the apostolic letter to the college of consultors, and the chancellor has to make notes, witness, and write up a document. So I got to do that,” Father Rayer smiled.
Bishop Conley has also delegated certain ecclesiastical roles to Father Rayer. One example is issuing dispensations for Catholics who are requesting permission to marry non-baptized fiancés. He also maintains Bishop Conley’s schedule with the help of Sister Kathryn Maney, M.S., the bishop’s secretary.
Father Rayer said he enjoys being able to work so closely with the bishop. Indeed, he still serves as master of ceremonies for Bishop Emeritus Fabian Bruskewitz, enjoying the opportunity to travel to other parts of the diocese.
His other duties include coordinating the training and installation of acolytes and lectors, chairing the diocesan liturgical commission (which is currently exploring ways to promote sacred music) and serving on the diocesan tribunal.
Father Rayer admits with a grin that his current service to the Church is nothing like what he anticipated in seminary.
“You always envision that you are going to serve in a parish,” he said. “I never expected to be sent off to study canon law; I never foresaw becoming chancellor of the diocese.”
With great joy, he is still able to celebrate the Mass weekdays for the Congregation of Missionary Sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of Mercy. On weekends, he hears confessions and celebrates Mass at Lincoln’s Sacred Heart Parish. Every now and then, he is able to preside at a baptism, wedding or funeral as well.
“When I was in the parish, those are big moments when you do get to know people. That’s one drawback in being a chancery priest – less interaction with people in those key moments of their lives,” he said.
Still, he’s pleased that he is able to help so many people. His phone rings regularly: calls from lay Catholics who have questions, or from priests who need clarification on some issue. Father Rayer’s copy of the Code of Canon Law is always at hand and getting a bit worn around the edges from constant use.
“It’s helping in a different way – but still working with and helping people,” he said.