A parish

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A parish -

It is a geographical subdivision of a diocese that has its own church building and a pastor, appointed by and under the jurisdiction of the bishop; besides being the spiritual leader of the parish, the pastor is its administrator as well. To satisfy the needs of people of certain nationalities or races, national parishes exist with no relation to territory, though they are authorized by the Ordinary.


sketch of a parish


The Parish and the Office of Parish Priest

18 A parish is a specific community of the christifideles, established on a stable basis within a particular Church, whose pastoral care is entrusted to a parish priest as its own shepherd under the authority of the diocesan bishop[65]. Thus, the entire life of the parish, as well as the significance of its apostolic commitments to society, have to be understood and lived in terms of an organic communion between the common priesthood of the faithful and the ministerial priesthood; of fraternal and dynamic collaboration between pastors and faithful, with absolute respect for the rights, duties and functions of both, and mutual recognition of their respective proper competence and responsibility. The parish priest, "in close communion with his Bishop and with his faithful... should avoid introducing into his pastoral ministry all forms of authoritarianism and forms of democratic administration which are alien to the profound reality of the ministry"[66]. In this regard, the interdicasterial Instruction Ecclesia de Mysterio, approved in forma specifica by the Supreme Pontiff, remains in full force. Its integral application assures that correct ecclesial praxis which is fundamental for the very life of the Church.

The parish, which is like a diocesan cell, should give "an outstanding example of community apostolate, for it gathers into a unity all the human diversity that are found there and inserts them into the universality of the Church"[70]. The communitas christifidelium is a the fundamental element of the parish. In a certain sense, the term underlines the dynamic relationship between those persons who, under the indispensable leadership of a proper pastor, are its constituents. As a general rule, such are all the faithful in a given territory, or some of the faithful in the case of personal parishes which have been constituted on the basis of rite, language, nationality or for other specific purposes[71].

19. Another basic element for the idea of parish is that of the cura pastoralis or cura animarum which is proper to the office of parish priest and principally expressed by preaching the Word of God, administering the sacraments, and in the pastoral government of the community[72]. In the parish, which is the normal context for pastoral care, "the parish priest is the proper shepherd of the parish entrusted to him. He exercises the pastoral care of that community under the authority of the diocesan bishop with whom he has been called to share in the ministry of Christ so that, in the service of that community, he may discharge the duties of teaching, sanctifying and governing, with the cooperation of other priests or deacons and the assistance of the lay members of the faithful and in accordance with the norms of law"[73]. The concept of parish priest is redolent of great theological significance while permitting a Bishop to establish other forms of the cura animarum in accordance with the norms of law.

20. The mission of pastor in a parish, which implies the full care of souls, absolutely requires the exercise of priestly orders[80]. Hence, in addition to ecclesial communion[81], canon law explicitly stipulates that only a man constituted in the sacred order of the presbyterate can be validly nominated to the office of parish priest[82]

With regard to the parish priest's duty to proclaim the word of God and to preach authentic Catholic doctrine, canon 528 explicitly mentions the homily and catechetical instruction; initiatives to promote the spirit of the Gospel in every ambit of life; the Catholic education of children and young people; as well as efforts involving the correct collaboration of the laity to ensure that the Gospel message reaches those who have abandoned the practise of the faith and those who do not profess the true faith[83], so that they might come to conversion through the grace of God. Clearly, the parish priest is not obliged personally to fulfil all of these duties. Rather, he is obliged to ensure that they are discharged in his parish in an opportune manner and in conformity with the doctrine and discipline of the Church. Such are realized as circumstances permit and subject to his personal responsibility. Some of the obligations incumbent on the parish priest must always be discharged exclusively by an ordained minister, as in the case of preaching during the celebration of the Holy Mass[84]. "Although he may be overshadowed by the eloquence of the non-ordained faithful, this does erase the fact that he sacramentally represents Christ, Head and Shepherd, and the fact that the effectiveness of his preaching derives from this reality"[85]. Other functions of the parish priest, such as catechesis, can be habitually carried out by the laity who have been properly trained doctrinally and who integrally live the Christian life. In such instances, the parish priest is obliged to maintain personal contact with these people. Blessed John XXIII wrote "it is most important that the clergy are at all times faithful in their duty of teaching. 'In this respect, it is useful to hold and insist - as St. Pius X says - that priests are bound more gravely to no other office, nor more strictly to any other obligation'"[86].

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