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Parish (Catholic Church)

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In the Roman Catholic Church, a parish is the lowest ecclesiastical geographical subdivision: from ecclesiastical province to diocese to deanery to parish.


A parish needs two things under common law to become a parish. Firstly a body of Catholics within a fixed boundary and a named priest with responsibility for that parish.[1]

Each parish has a parish priest, also known as a pastor, although pastoral care of one or more parishes can also be entrusted to a team of priests in solidum.[2] In extraordinary situations, administration of a parish can also be entrusted to a deacon or lay person (supervised by a priest).[3]

The practical significance of parish boundaries varies in different parts of the world. Catholics can generally choose to worship in any church that they find convenient or specially appealing, irrespective of whether they live within the parish boundaries, and if they thereby become members of that parish community, their place of residence will not count against them. Many Catholics probably do not even know where the parish boundaries are. A parish is thus primarily a community of people, rather than a geographic territory.

Parish life

The parish is the centre of most Catholics' spiritual life, since it is there that they receive the sacraments.

The parish generally has a busy schedule, although this depends on size and culture. The seven sacraments are the centre of parish life. Traditionally, there is Mass daily and on Sundays according to pastoral need, normally celebrated by priests resident in the parish. There is offered confessions, as well as other forms of prayer and social events. This is still the case in many parishes. However, in the Western world, as numbers of priests fall, there tend to be fewer priest-led, and more laity-led activities. There are also always social events: their nature depends on culture and circumstances.

The Parish Priest

"The Parish Priest is the proper clergyman in charge of the congregation of the parish entrusted to him. He exercises the pastoral care of the community entrusted to him under the authority of the diocesan Bishop, whose ministry of Christ he is called to share, so that for this community he may carry out the offices of teaching, sanctifying and ruling with the cooperation of other priests or deacons and with the assistance of lay members of Christ's faithful, in accordance with the law".[4]

In the United States the Parish Priest is usually called the Pastor.

Parish personnel

In addition to the Parish Priest, it is common for the Parish to have a group of staff; lay, consecrated religious, and ordained. For example, there can be a Parish Secretary who assists the Parish Priest with administrative matters; a parish sister who was responsible for activities like sick visiting; and a permanent deacon, who is often married and assists the Parish Priest with the pastoral or administrative side of parish affairs. Often, parishes also have a parish council, appointed by the Parish Priest, although, unlike in Protestant denominations, this has no authority except through the Parish Priest.

See also


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