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​​​​​​Parishes are a definite community within a particular (arch)diocese of the universal Church, which Catholics profess to be the one, holy, catholic, apostolic Church. The Church faithful, through faith and baptism, become members of the Body of Christ. This universal Church, one in faith, sacraments and governance in union with the Pope, is realized in several ritual churches sui juris reflecting Eastern and Western traditions. Spread around the world, these ritual churches are organized in eparchies, in order better to address local circumstances. While the faithful generally associate with a particular parish within their own ritual church, it is important to remember that the faithful are participants in a universal Church and are welcomed in that Church, wherever they may be without concern for their ritual affiliation.

In the archdiocese of Los Angeles, the first communities of the faithful were organized as missions. Later, as organized civic communities were established, geographic parishes were founded. In the 20th century, with the burgeoning population in the Los Angeles area, parish boundaries were set such that families would not need to walk, or later drive, more than about a mile to their parish church. More recently, the approach has been to expand existing parishes and to recognize centers that are serving the needs of particular national groups.

As noted in Parishes, Missions, Oratories, and Centers, a parish is a community of the Christian faithful established on a stable basis (Canon 515). Each parish is a "public juridic person" under canon law, with certain defined rights and obligations, both as a separate canonical entity and as a part of the archdiocese. In all cases, parishes are subject to the overall responsibility and authority of the archbishop. Each parish has the right to acquire, retain, administer, and alienate (sell, lease, or transfer) temporal goods as regulated by canon law (Canons 515 §3, 1255, and 1256), but that right is subject to parallel constraints and rights under civil law. Similarly, under both canon and civil law, every parish is obligated to administer and steward its assets for the current and long-term benefit of the parish community.

Fundamentally, under canon law all parish assets belong to the parish and are held for the benefit of the parish community (Canon 1257 §1). The pastor/administrator, under canon law, is the legal representative of the parish and is responsible for the parish operations, the oversight and stewardship of the parish assets, and the pastoral and spiritual care of the faithful (Canons 519 and 532).