PROVINCIAL (provincialis superior): The regular ecclesiastic who presides over a number of cloisters which collectively form a province. The monks constitute a peculiar hierarchy, which, while not in all points alike in the various orders, essentially conforms to the following gradation. Within any given district the cloisters of an order constitute a department, which among the Franciscans is termed custodia. Several of these compose a province, in charge of a provincial; whereas the entire order is under the general. The province may embrace one or several countries, according to circumstances. Notwithstanding the obedience commanded by the hierarchical organization of the cloister system, the superior's authority is limited through the necessity of conference with ecclesiastics of the order when important objects are under advisement. Thus the prior of the separate cloister is offset by the fathers of the same; the superior of the province by the superiors of the separate cloisters; the general of the order by the provincials. The provincials, who at the same time are superiors of some chief cloister of their province, appear in still other connections as members of the chapter general of an entire order.
PROVISOR: A person appointed as administrator of part of the church property. Originally, church property was administered by the bishop. As the wealth of the Church came to be specialized, the administration of the parochial property devolved upon the parish priest under supervision of bishop and archdeacon. Very soon, however, there also grew up an influence on the side of the secular parishioners, and suitable persons from their midst were either elected by the parochians, or appointed by the church dignitaries, as administrators of the church structure. They bore various designations, among others vitrici, and provisores. As clergy were termed "fathers" of the Church (patres ecclesiĉ), so the provisores were termed "patronal" fathers.
The designation provisor is applied also to the auxiliary clergy, specifically to parish incumbents.
PROVOST, SAMUEL: First Protestant Episcopal bishop of New York; b. in New York City Mar. 11, 1742; d. there Sept. 6, 1815. He received his education at King's College (now Columbia University), graduating in 1761, and at the University of Cambridge, England, entering St. Peter's House (now St. Peter's College); he was made deacon and priest in London, 1766; and on his return to America became one of the clergy of Trinity Church, New York, where he became noted for his patriotism and received the title of "the patriot rector" after his selection to the rectorship in 1784. His service with Trinity was not continuous, however, as in 1774 political conditions led him to retire to a small estate in what was then Dutchess county. Here he indulged his love of botany (at Cambridge he prepared a manuscript index to Baubin's Historic planetarum) as a disciple of Linnĉus. In 1786 he was elected bishop of New York, and was consecrated at Lambeth Palace. He offered his resignation of the bishopric in 1801, but it was declined and he was given a bishop-coadjutor. He published nothing, but was a scholar of notable attainments, being proficient in not only the classical languages, but in French, German, and Italian, translating but not publishing Tassot's "Jerusalem Delivered." He did excellent service for his church during a period when episcopacy was not popular in this country.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: W. E. Sprague, Annals of the American Pulpit, v. 240-248, New York, 1859; J. G. Wilson and others, Centennial Hist. of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of New York, 1786-1886, ib., 1888; W. S. Perry, The Episcopate in America, p. 9, ib., 1895; M. Dix, Hist. of the Parish of Trinity Church, vol. ii., ib., 1901.
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