Teaching Our Faith – What is an archdiocese: parishes of the archdiocese

Dr. Brian B. Reynolds

This series of teaching editorials defines the role of our local Church, the archdiocese, and how it serves from a variety of perspectives.

Whenever you meet someone new and discover they are Catholic, two common questions follow: What parish do you go to? What school did you attend? Catholics gain at least part of their Catholic identity through the lens of a parish. Consider the simple yet powerful phrase, “I belong to Saint Joseph.” Belonging suggests far more than joining a club. It denotes a deeper connection to persons, a place and a common mission.

Canon Law defines a parish as a “definite community of the Christian faithful established on a stable basis within a particular church” (c. 515). A particular church, or local church, is the diocese under the care of the bishop. A parish exists within the local church under the care of the pastor.

Generally, a parish is set up as a particular territory. While most parishioners and even some pastors do not know their parish boundaries, the boundaries identify an area in which people live and for whom the pastor is to provide care. Institutions in a parish territory also become a part of the pastor’s care. For example, the existence of a hospital or nursing home within a parish’s geography may require the attention of that parish and its pastor. 

Families living in a location are not required to attend their closest parish. In fact, our records indicate that more than fifty percent of Catholics in the archdiocese travel past their closest parish to attend a parish of their choice. Church location, Mass times, ethnicity of members, music, the existence of a school and the pastor himself all seem to influence where a parishioner worships.

Occasionally a parish is established as a personal parish, sometimes called national parishes, based on language or the nationality of the faithful.

In the Archdiocese of Louisville, we are blessed to have 110 parishes spread throughout our 24 counties. Each parish is unique in serving a geographic area. A small number were established as mission churches of other parishes and still hold that title, but we commonly think of them as distinct communities with their own memberships and customs.

Our oldest parish is Holy Cross in Marion County, established in 1785. Our newest parish is Good Shepherd in Louisville, established in 2009 through the merger of three historic parishes: Our Lady, Saint Cecilia and Saint Anthony.

The relationship of a parish to the Archdiocese is one of shared responsibility and mutual support. What the Archdiocese does for parishes can be described in three ways: governance, resources and service.

The leader of course is the Archbishop of Louisville as appointed by the Holy Father. As leader of the Archdiocese, Archbishop Kurtz has governance responsibilities for the entire local church. He is the one who sets policies, always consistent with Canon Law of the universal church. The Archbishop also appoints pastors and other clergy for parishes to ensure the pastoral care of all members. In order to do this, the Archdiocese has a Vocation Office and a Diaconate Office, which oversee the preparation of these ministers for the church. In addition, the person of the Archbishop holds the property and goods of all parishes since the Archdiocese is a single civil corporation in the State of Kentucky.

Second, the Archdiocese is a source of resources and training for all parishes. The Offices of Worship, Family Ministries, Faith Formation, Multicultural Ministry, Youth and Young Adults and others assist parishes by training staff and volunteers for their related areas of parish life. Office such as Parish Leadership Development, Personnel, Mission Advancement, and Finance work with specific parish staff members, Parish Councils and Finance Councils to assist them in their responsibilities. The Superintendent of Schools and Catholic Schools Office provide an array of programs and resources for Catholic schools.

Finally, parishes rely on the archdiocese to address needs and provide services that no single parish can meet.  Catholic Charities, Catholic Cemeteries, the Metropolitan Tribunal, The Record, the Catholic Enrichment Center and the Catholic Conference of Kentucky serve parishioners directly and often the wider community as well.

While the archdiocese supports the parishes in numerous ways, parishes (and parishioners) also support the archdiocese and each other through mutual programs and ministries, through direct parish support of the diocese through assessments (a portion of parish income directed to the Archdiocese) and through the annual Catholic Services Appeal.

Archbishop Kurtz reminds us that parish life is at the heart of where and how we grow as the Body of Christ. Our 110 parishes together serve as a tremendous force for our common mission to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ.

Dr. Brian B. Reynolds

Chancellor and Chief Administrative Officer, Archdiocese of Louisville

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