When Father Brian Capuano took over the roles of judicial vicar and chancellor from the retiring Msgr. R. Francis Muench on July 1, he was entering the office to which his mentor first guided him in 2013.
As chancellor, he will be the chief archivist and chief notary for the diocese. As judicial vicar, he will be responsible for administration of the tribunal, ensuring that justice is carried out in various areas of the life of the Church. At the same time, he departed from his previous role as vicar for vocations, which he had held since 2019.
“In the life of the Church, you serve where you’re asked to serve,” said Father Capuano. “It’s not geared toward moving up a ladder somehow. Part of what we have to do is cultivate a willingness and receptivity to what the bishop asks.”
Father Capuano first got a feel for the tribunal office in 2013, two years after he was ordained, when Msgr. Muench suggested he consider studying canon law. After helping out once a week in the office for a short time, Father Capuano began studying at Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., graduating with a master’s in canon law in 2018.
As judicial vicar, many of his cases deal with annulments. “It’s a part of the life of the Church that doesn’t get a lot of attention, and that’s a good thing, because you’re dealing with people’s intimate lives,” he said.
As vicar for vocations, he was responsible for promoting vocations to the priesthood. It was a role that required him to spend lots of time with seminarians and men who were discerning. “I loved working with the men,” he said. “As they shared their lives, it enabled me to share more of my life as a Christian and as a priest.”
“They gave me a lot of hope,” he added. “I enjoyed interacting with them, seeing their zeal and their desire to serve the Church and to see it grow. There’s a great love for the people of this diocese on the part of the seminarians.”
Thoughtful, direct, and somewhat reserved, Father Capuano says his greatest strength was in the one-on-one time he spent with seminarians and candidates. During the COVID-19 lockdown, he lived with many of them at the Roslyn Retreat Center in Richmond.
As he departed the vicar for vocations role, Father Matt Kiehl, who Father Capuano called “energetic and engaging,” stepped in (see adjacent).
Like Father Capuano, Father Kiehl has experience in his new field. “I’ve had a few seminarians assigned to my parishes when I was in parish ministry, and I would assist Father Brian – and Father Michael Boehling before him – in their role as vicar for vocations,” he said. “It’s really uplifting and beautiful to see so many men who are dedicated and prayerful in discerning God’s call.”
For Father Capuano, his familiarity with the tribunal office and his education were an asset as he prepared to take over the judicial vicar and chancellor positions from Msgr. Muench. “All you can do is try your best to work with the folks that are in the tribunal, read, study and get back to stuff you should know because it’s classwork you had,” he said.
“It’s not a matter of rank or distinction. Someone simply has to do the jobs,” he added. “I just look forward to serving the people in this crucial ministry of the diocese. It’s been a great joy to serve with the members of the tribunal up to this point, and I’m looking forward to continuing to do so.”