What is the relationship between a religious order-run parish and the diocese?

I’ve always had this lingering question about the relationship between an order and a diocese. Say there’s a Jesuit administered parish, does this mean that the Jesuit order own the parish and its property? Do the priests report to the Jesuit leadership or the Diocese? How much control do Bishops have over the operation of a parish in his diocese? Should a Jesuit parish fail, does it become the responsibility of the diocese? If a parish becomes Jesuit, does it mean that the Jesuits somehow purchased the property from the diocese or some other order? How do collections and proceeds generally work? How are orders selected to administer a parish?

I suspect the answers would likely include several “it depends” and “it’s complicated”, but I just want to know the “general” answers. Thank you for your response!


Usually, the order contracts with the diocese to staff a parish property that is owned by the diocese. Ordinarily the order chooses the priests to staff the parish and they remain under the authority of the order’s superiors with regard to their way of life and the internal workings of their local community. But they are under the bishop’s authority regarding any ministry they do in the diocese.

There are some instances where the Church and surrounding property are owned by the order. But the members of the order are still under the bishop, regarding ministry in the diocese. Also the parish can only be recognized as a parish by the bishop’s permission.

Fr. Vincent Serpa, O.P.

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