Territorial parish and pastor

What determines your territorial parish and your pastor? I rarely attend the parish closest to me, and the parish I got confirmed at and received first Communion at is pretty close, but not the closest. So would my pastor be the pastor of the church I’ve been involved with and am registered with, or the pastor of the church closest in geographical location to my house?


Your domicile resides within the physical boundaries of the parish to which you belong canonically and that is your pastor.

You can call the parish or the archdiocese and ask them which parish boundaries you reside in. However, sometimes they don’t even know - I once called one of the parishes close by and asked them and they told me they didn’t know the boundaries.

Our parish boundaries are very clear and I was never in doubt as the receptionist. We have a laminated map of the diocese which shows all the boundaries clearly. However I wondered why this information was not accessible online. You’d think it would be a prime piece of public information for the diocese to put out there, but I exhaustively searched and searched and there’s no digital map to be found.

Our records diocese has a parish finder on it’s Web site. You can type in your address and it will tell you your parish. Maybe try that?

It all depends on you archdiocese. In Toronto we are able to choose a parish based on personal preference. I think each archdiocese has its own rules.

You are free to attend any parish and even to register at any parish (at least in most North American dioceses), but that does NOT constitute canonical membership. You are the member of your geographical parish by virtue of canon law, unless you qualify for a personal parish (such as a specific ethnic parish) based upon the criteria determined by the Ordinary (bishop or archbishop of the place).

Attend, participate, worship in the Parish you chose and be at peace!

In Toronto you just need to register in the parish,


I have had the same experience. I know within the city limits the railroad tracks form the boundary between my parish and the other one in town. But in the case of people who live in some of the more rural areas around the city the boundaries are somewhat less clear. I have been told the archdiocese has some kind of map but it doesn’t seem that the archdiocese has much interest in sharing that information with the individual parishes. Pastors are apparently given faculties to administer sacraments to people who live in the general area of the parish even if they are technically not within the actual boundaries of the parish.

just help me a bit here-if one wanted to go to a Parish that is not the closest as the crow flies one should really not do that and one “must” register at the closest Parish? ( I read the dispensation for ethnic Parishes)-WHY WHY

also if a Parish is run by a religious order-the Franciscans have several in Tampa here does this count ?

this is similar to the Mormons with their geographic layouts and "stakes " et al

No one has said that one “should not” attend a parish near or far. Registration does not make one a parishioner of a parish. Your domicile does. You can *attend *any Catholic parish/Mass of your choosing. You *belong *to the care of the pastor in whose territory you reside.

A parish is a territory of a diocese under the direction of the diocesan bishop. Sometimes an order of priests will staff a parish. Canonically, it is a diocesan parish. If you are talking about Mass at an abbey or something, no that is not a parish.

The diocese and parish go back to the early Church. Mormons might indeed have something similar to the Catholic Church.

What does this mean?

The parish I am registered with is 10 minutes away, the closest one is about 5 minutes. Could I be in the physical boundaries of Both?

Perhaps, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t register at the parish within whose boundaries you reside! One day, you might need documentation (e.g., if you wish to be a godparent or confirmation sponsor, and need proof that you have all your sacraments and are a practicing Catholic), and if you simply call the parish where you “attend, participate, worship” (without being registered anywhere), you’ll find out – to your dismay! – that they can’t help you, since you’re not their parishioner!

What parish is going to deny you a sacramental certificate because you are not a parishioner? That’s ridiculous. I easily received my baptismal certificate and First Communion certificate from two parishes 600 miles away.

Not what the poster meant. Of course you can always obtain your sacramental records from your baptismal parish, regardless of where you live.

Unless you belong to a personal parish, a priest who is not your geographical pastor is under no canonical obligation to baptize your children, celebrate your funeral or your marriage or vouch for you as “your Pastor”. In practice that is often ignored but you can’t assume it will always be.

Our Pastor has printed in the bulletin that anyone who wants their child baptized in another parish needs his permission (we often prepare couples for Baptisms that will occur “back home”) and if they are bringing their child here from elsewhere to be baptized he needs a letter of permission from their Pastor. I know that previous pastors have not required either but this Pastor has a degree in Canon Law and wants to Do things right.

That is one way. If one is speaking of a “Personal Parish”.

You can also obtain a proper parish and proper pastor by residence within the boundaries of the more typical “Territorial Parish”.

So says archtoronto.org/parishes/index.html


The Diocese of Pittsburgh makes the information available. It is spread a bit thin though.

cf The “File Attachments” at the bottom of this page.


According to the website the Archdiocese accepts “registering and regularly attending a parish outside the geographical bounderies” as valid membership in a parish – no mention that it has to be at a personal parish.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.