Jump to content

How to Address a Catholic Priest?


Specializes in Med/Surg, Tele, Dialysis, Hospice. Has 26 years experience.

I recently started a job as a Med/Surg float in a smallish community hospital. The city where I work used to be predominately Roman Catholic, and there is a retirement home for Catholic priests and nuns there. Recently, a priest was admitted on one of the floors that I float to, and although he wasn't my patient, it got me thinking. Since I'm not Catholic, what is the correct way for me to address a priest or nun when I have them for a patient? Is "Father________" standard, even for non-Catholics? To be honest, it makes me kind of uncomfortable to refer to someone as "Father", and I don't want to break protocol if only Catholics are supposed to refer to him as such. However, "Mr.__________" just doesn't seem right either. Can anyone enlighten me on the right protocol here? I mean, I really feel awkward referring to a stranger as "Father", but I know that it will come up sooner or later working in this hospital. Would "Reverend" be appropriate for a priest?


tewdles, RN

Specializes in PICU, NICU, L&D, Public Health, Hospice. Has 31 years experience.

I would ask him. The priests that I worked with preferred that co-workers called them by their first names. Most of the patients refer to them as "father son of a gun (or whatever).

His formal title would "Reverend". "Father" also works but is more informal. As tewdles suggests, I'd ask him: "Reverend Smith, how would you prefer we address you?" & take your cue from there.

solneeshka, BSN, RN

Specializes in PACU, Surgery, Acute Medicine. Has 12 years experience.

Priests are called either "Father Firstname" or "Father Lastname," unless they are a Monsignor, Bishop, or Archbishop (Catholic heirarchy), in which case they are "Monsignor Lastname," "Bishop Lastname," or "Archbishop Lastname." I don't think a priest would be insulted, though, if you were his nurse taking care of him and called him "Father Name" even if he ranked higher than a standard priest. Just giving you the protocol! With that part out of the way, it is indeed okay/appropriate for a non-Catholic to refer to a priest as Father Name. Think of it as a government title. Even if you're not French, you would still refer to the leader of the French government as "President Sarkozy," wouldn't you? If you met Prince William, you wouldn't call him Mr. Windsor, you would call him Prince William, even though he's not your prince. It's the same with religious designations. I'm Catholic, but if I were taking care of a Jewish rabbi, I would call him "Rabbi Lastname." If I know a patient is a physician, I'll call him/her "Dr. Lastname." It may feel awkward for you at first, but if there are that many priests who are patients, you'll get used to it soon enough! All of that said, I agree with the previous poster that it's also perfectly okay to ask such patients what they want to be called and then to follow that guidance. BTW, nuns are generally "Sister Newname," with "Newname" being the name that they take on ordination. That's a little trickier. I don't know if they legally change the name! Best to ask the first nun that you have as a patient :-)


Specializes in Surgical, quality,management. Has 12 years experience.

agree father first name or father last name which ever they prefer


Specializes in Medical Surgical & Nursing Manaagement. Has 21 years experience.

I agree, Father Whatever +/or Sister Whatever, Rabbi Whatever. I've had some patients that are physicians and have apologized for calling them Mister and not Doctor, usually they just shrug it off and say no harm done. On the other hand, most dentists correct me if I call them Mister and if their spouse is present, they too are quick to correct. Go figure!


Specializes in Home Health.

I say Hello my name is I