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Skip Navigation LinksADLA Administrative Handbook > Chapter 2 - Parish Governance > 2.1 - Parishes, Missions, Oratories, and Centers

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​​Under canon law, the parish is defined as a certain community of the Christian faithful established on a stable basis by the arch(bishop) within a particular diocese or archdiocese, which has been formed and established by the Holy See. The pastoral care of each parish is entrusted to a canonical pastor or parish priest (Canon 515). The Latin parochus is usually translated as "pastor" in the United States, while most English-speaking countries use the term "parish priest." In the archdiocese, some parishes are administered by a parish life director.

As a general rule, a parish was set out in geographical boundaries and embraced all the Catholic faithful within those boundaries. In our mobile, urban, and diverse society, individuals and families may join a parish based on a personal connection to others in the parish community, as well as select a parish based on its location, but geographical boundaries remain the major factor in parish choice and designation for participation in the sacramental life of the Church.

In the archdiocese, to respond to the reality of fewer priests being available to serve the large and ever-growing number of the faithful, various parish models have emerged and are continuing to be developed, evaluated, and adjusted to meet current needs or new understandings of how best to administer, serve, and shepherd parish communities.

Most parishes continue to be overseen either by a diocesan priest, who is designated as the pastor for a term, or by a diocesan or extern priest administrator who may remain in the parish and become the pastor or may be reassigned to another parish. A few parishes have been administered for many years by a religious institute and have a priest from the order assigned to lead the parish. Other parishes are now led by a parish life director or a deacon with a non-resident priest who serves as a canonical and sacramental pastor; some parishes have been "twinned" and are jointly administered with another parish. In all cases, however, the ultimate pastoral care of a parish is entrusted to a priest designated as the canonical pastor, who is the shepherd serving under the authority of the archbishop as the diocesan bishop under canon law (Canon 515). The concept of a sacramental canonical pastor for each parish is an essential element under canon law, even when the day-to-day life of the parish is administered by someone who is not a priest.

In addition, in the archdiocese, a number of parochial missions, oratories, chapels, and centers serve remote or small communities, college campuses, or similar locations that do not have an on-site or adjacent parish. They also serve Korean, Cambodian, Vietnamese, and other faithful who wish to continue their custom of worshipping as an ethnic community; the faithful are connected to a designated parish but may have clergy and staff who devote their principal effort to the ethnic community at the particular location.


Chapels for the celebration of Mass and certain sacraments have been authorized by the archbishop in cemeteries, in hospitals and other health care or residential facilities, in senior citizen and assisted living locations, at retreat and other religious centers, and in similar facilities that serve particular needs. The details of such locations vary. The locations may have a designated chaplain, be part of a parish for sacramental purposes, or be under the direct supervision of the archdiocese or a religious institute. Whatever the arrangement, these entities are not considered separate parishes.


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