How does a church become a parish?


#1

Not sure if this is the correct spot for this question but I was doing some research on a local church and I read that the church building was built in 1864 but it didn’t become a parish until 1911. How does a church become a parish? What is the difference between a church community and a parish? Thanks. :slight_smile:


#2

Canon Law governs the establishment, administration of, and suppression of parishes and other types of Church buildings and juridic persons. Ultimately it is the Bishop who establishes a parish.

Orders of priests can also build buildings and establish communities, schools, etc, that are under the jurisdiction of their superior. But those would not be parish churches, those would be chapels or oratories.

The church building was likely a mission of another parish-- having liturgical functions but not it’s own priest or own separate juridic entity within canon law. When it got big enough population-wise, the Bishop made it its own parish with its own pastor and own separate juridic identity under canon law.


#3

Down here in South Texas, there are missions in rural areas that have been missions for 75-80 years and will probably remain missions. Some of these churches are even pretty buildings. The communities aren’t large enough to justify erecting a parish.

On the other hand, there are several parishes that started out as missions that became parishes when populations grew and people moved in.


#4

It is also possible that a parish church started out as a private chapel for a religious order, school, or even a family estate. At some point, (as with a mission church), the bishop may choose to establish a parish.

The original parish in my town started out as a family chapel. At the time the nearest Catholic parish was some distance away on the other side of a river. In the winter it was easier for a priest to come and say Mass at the chapel than for all the Catholics to ford the river when it was in flood stage. Eventually the family donated the chapel to the archdiocese so a parish could be established.


#5

An interesting history. I would expect this kind of thing to occur in Europe. It is fascinating that it happened in Southern California.

Would you care do divulge its identity?

Also, with the Episcopal Church in the USA, a parish is a self-supporting entity. It differs from a mission, which is either supported by the diocese or by a parish, or both. The pastor of a parish is called a rector. The pastor of a mission is called a vicar (meaning he/she acts in the place of the bishop).

And with thy spirit.


#6

Down here in South Texas, several mission churches started as private chapels built by ranchers.


#7

So then what is the difference between a mission and a parish? Do they not have mass at missions?


#8

vatican.va/archive/ENG1104/__P1U.HTM

Yes, typically.


#9

[quote="1ke, post:8, topic:291047"]
vatican.va/archive/ENG1104/__P1U.HTM

[/quote]

Where does it explain the difference between a mission and a parish? I searched the document and didn't see anything. Thanks.


#10

[quote="catholicanne, post:7, topic:291047"]
So then what is the difference between a mission and a parish? Do they not have mass at missions?

[/quote]

It might interest you to learn that a parish is a lot like a mini-diocese. In the early church the ecclesiology had basically one diocese-parish in a town, the pastor of all the town was the bishop. Other church buildings might be scattered around the town and in the hamlets beyond, where Mass is held, but for baptisms everyone had to go down to the cathedral where the bishop officiated. The diocese tended to be geographically small compared to modern north American diocese. This was the dominant organization in the Mediterranean area and basically remains the same in many places.

This is the reason for those old famous baptistries in Italy. Everyone went to the cathedral for baptism, the baptistry was a separate building outside, the local church buildings in the neighborhoods were not actually parishes. The diocese was not exactly separated into parishes although the church buildings in the neighborhoods would look like parish buildings to an American.

http://t1.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcT0c0iLquV_VDRxRV1H2YwX8CC-g42QKY5WFNAnp1zIfr9mgw7l

As the faith spread into northern Europe the parish system was adopted. The land was sparsely populated and largely rural for a long time (some areas being essentially wilderness for hundreds of years in early Christianity), dioceses were geographically large, quite spread out, and functions like baptism were delegated to the local priest if far from the bishop. A parish could grow into several church buildings far apart in different local hamlets and villages (they might be called missions, but they are subsidiary chapels), with one parish priest in charge (under the bishop, of course, who would be even further away). The parish priest could do a rotation from village to village saying Masses, but if more priests become available they can be hired and assigned to the church buildings in the other villages. These are supervised by the parish priest who might be called the rector, these assistant priests are sometimes called curates or vicars or have a similar title in other local languages. Sometimes as the population rises over time a curacy is elevated to a parish, and more little missions and curacies might be set up in the smaller hamlets that have also grown.

Here is an interesting short list of parishes in a town in Poland (where my family is from) some were always parishes, some are very old but served as local chapels for many years and were elevated to parishes later, so one can see how the process works.

If one by chance has ever seen the BBC television series Ballykissangel, set in Ireland, one can see this system in action. The priest in Ballykisssangel is a hired man, and the parish priest is actually in another village and is his boss.

http://t0.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcQVqKTqYVZSao5Y80kUzL9RSqwkHuURHfGZUiUeAMo2dkePwPR9Yg

In the USA, the tendency has not been to have more than one church building in a parish, at least in urban areas. This means the one church building is often very large. This obscures the true nature of a parish system, which is like a diocese in miniature (because some originally episcopal functions have been delegated to the parish priest), and can cause some confusion to moderns.


#11

I wonder how big the population must be because my local church has a very large population but is still a “mission” and a church.


#12

When I belonged to an ethnic “Catholic Community” with a chaplain, the bishop wouldn’t consider making us a parish unless we had 200 families. At the time we only had 50, from more than 12 surrounding communities. There is no way we could have supported a priest, let alone a church building.


#13

I forgot the most famous mission church of all....The Alamo (Mission San Antonio de Valero).


#14

[quote="catholicanne, post:7, topic:291047"]
So then what is the difference between a mission and a parish? Do they not have mass at missions?

[/quote]

I don't see anything in Canon Law that defines a Mission, but in practical terms it usually means a community that is looked after by a priest who is Pastor somewhere else and one that due to low population or poverty could not support a priest although they may have a church.

I think historically, you might see a parish in a town, then a village down the road would build a church to have a place to worship and the priest from the Parish would be given the mission of ministering to those villagers too. That village church became a mission of the town parish. When the numbers in the village justified it, the Bishop would erect a parish and appoint a Pastor. And so on, and so on ...

Today, with cluster parishes, we are seeing the same kind of thing under another name because we are dealing with already long-established parishes.

My area, being very isolated, was considered mission territory. The Oblates of Mary Immaculate have been a presence since the 1700s but the area was served only by itinerant priests (one, diocesan) until the late 40s. Last year the Oblates announced that they would no longer send missionaries and all but one are now gone. That last one is in his mid 60s and has opted never to leave.

We have 7 erected parishes and one 'Catholic Community'. Three parishes are self-sufficient, four have a Pastor. Three of those Pastors are responsible for at least one other parish. One is responsible for his own parish, another parish nearby and the Catholic Community 250 km away; the two other are responsible for their own parishes and a parish each that they have to reach by air (or boat in the summer).


#15

Same thing here in South Texas. In the Diocese of Brownsville, the OMIs founded about 85 percent of the parishes down here. Practically every parish has Oblate roots. The Basilica of the National Shrine of Nuestra Senora de San Juan del Valle was founded by the Oblates.

This year, the abandoned two parishes and are down to three parishes in the diocese. They try to put a good spin on things: that they are missionaries. They open parishes, and when they are ready and fruitful, they hand them over to local bishops. However, the stats we are hearing are scarey for the future of the OMIs in the United States…95 percent of the OMIs are over 50. A couple of years back, they ordained one priest in the whole United States.


#16

[quote="PacoG, post:15, topic:291047"]
Same thing here in South Texas. In the Diocese of Brownsville, the OMIs founded about 85 percent of the parishes down here. Practically every parish has Oblate roots. The Basilica of the National Shrine of Nuestra Senora de San Juan del Valle was founded by the Oblates.

This year, the abandoned two parishes and are down to three parishes in the diocese. They try to put a good spin on things: that they are missionaries. They open parishes, and when they are ready and fruitful, they hand them over to local bishops. However, the stats we are hearing are scarey for the future of the OMIs in the United States...95 percent of the OMIs are over 50. A couple of years back, they ordained one priest in the whole United States.

[/quote]

That's definitely the case in Canada too, although I think Assumption Province (the Polish Province) ordains more & younger men than Lacombe Province (the pan-Canada English Province). And I've found that for members of a missionary congregation the younger ones are strangely fond of ministering in cities and don't want to be in the boonies where they are most needed.


#17

[quote="Imcatholic7, post:11, topic:291047"]
I wonder how big the population must be because my local church has a very large population but is still a "mission" and a church.

[/quote]

It's probably not just population. It's probably some combination of the number of available priests, the number of families, and the size of areas that it is practical for a single priest to serve.


#18

The parish is a defined area. My parish happens to have the largest area in square miles in the archdiocese where it is located.

My parish has one main parish church and two mission churches in two very different communities–one is made up of people who commute to an urban area to work and the other has a large Hispanic population that works in that farming community. It’s been that way for years and years, with a priest traveling from the main church to the two missions for Mass.

The missions are each a good 20 miles from the parish church and from each other. Only the parish church has daily Mass. The mission I attend has one Sunday Mass, while the other mission has a Saturday Vigil in Spanish and Sunday Mass in English.


#19

[quote="Phemie, post:12, topic:291047"]
When I belonged to an ethnic "Catholic Community" with a chaplain, the bishop wouldn't consider making us a parish unless we had 200 families. At the time we only had 50, from more than 12 surrounding communities. There is no way we could have supported a priest, let alone a church building.

[/quote]

We have 335 families AND the main parish has one priest for them and one that assists us.


closed #20

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