Ministry 2025: Defining pastoral terms


In the Feb. 25, 2016 edition of The Catholic Globe, Ministry 2025, pastoral planning for Diocese of Sioux City was announced. Since that issue, 47 stories have been published on a variety of questions and concerns.

In most of those stories, particular terms were used to discuss the impact of the plan. Here are some clarifications of the terms that appeared in stories from a variety of sources.

Canon Law: Webster’s Dictionary defines canon law as “codified law governing a church.” Other sources enhance that definition with “ecclesiastical law in the Roman Catholic Church that is laid down by papal pronouncements.”

Church: Canon law does not specifically define a church, but Webster’s Dictionary states it is “a building for public and especially Christian worship.” The term “church” may also be used to identify the persons associated with a religious body. When capitalized, it may refer to the Catholic Church. Often, it is used interchangeably with the word “parish.”

Parish: Canon 515.1 identifies a parish as “a certain community of the Christian faithful stably constituted in a particular church, whose pastoral care is entrusted to a pastor under the authority of the diocesan bishop.” Therefore, a church is technically a building, while a parish is a community. A parish can include one or more worship sites and/or properties.

Worship Site: Canons 121 and 122 discuss merging parishes. When parishes are merged, the newly-merged parish may have a number of churches at which Masses and the sacraments may be celebrated. In essence, a worship site is a building.

Oratory: Canon 1223 defines the term oratory as a place for divine worship, designated by permission of the bishop. Oratories may be used for weddings, funerals or other specified events, but typically not for vigil or Sunday Masses.

Shrine: Canon 1230 defines the term shrine as a “church or other sacred place to which numerous members of the faithful make pilgrimage for a special reason of piety, with the approval of the local bishop.” The Diocese of Sioux City has two shrines: The Grotto of the Redemption in West Bend and Trinity Heights Queen of Peace in Sioux City.

Deanery: The Catholic Dictionary defines deanery as “a subdivision of a diocese, consisting of a number of parishes, over which presides a dean appointed by a bishop.” The duty of the dean – often with the title vicar forane – is to watch over the clergy of the deanery, to see that they fulfill the orders of the bishop and observe the liturgical and canon laws.

Diocese: A diocese is defined in canon law as “a portion of the People of God, which is entrusted to a bishop to be nurtured by him, with the cooperation of the presbyterium [clergy] in such a way that, remaining close to its pastor and gathered by him through the Gospel and the Eucharist in the Holy Spirit, it constitutes a particular church.” Administratively, dioceses usually follow local boundaries such as counties, and they generally center on a prominent city within that territory. A diocese also is sometimes called a See, a term linked with the official seat of the bishop and referring to his territory or charge.

Bishop: Canon 381.1 states “A diocesan bishop in the diocese entrusted to him has all ordinary, proper and immediate power which is required for the exercise of his pastoral function except for cases which the law or a decree of the Supreme Pontiff reserves to the supreme authority or to another ecclesiastical authority.” The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church of the Vatican Council II elucidates that “This power, which they (the bishops) exercise personally in the name of Christ, is proper, ordinary, and immediate, although its exercise is ultimately controlled by the supreme authority of the Church…” (#27). A bishop who oversees a diocese is often referred to as the Ordinary of the diocese.

Pastoral Plan: Although not defined in canon law, a definition of pastoral plan could be “a process by which a local faith community – with a deep appreciation of its past, and an understanding of its present strengths and weaknesses – seeks to respond to the spiritual and pastoral needs of the people within, and beyond, its community,” as in the purpose set forth in Ministry 2025. This is accomplished through consultation and dialogue that leads to action. Ministry 2025 provided clear descriptions of key goals for each parish in its Parish Pastoral Plan concerning ministry roles, worship, stewardship, faith formation and other factors.

Cluster/Merge: Canon 515.2 states: “It is only for the diocesan bishop to erect, suppress or alter parishes. He is neither to erect, suppress, nor alter notably parishes, unless he has heard the presbyteral council.” Once the necessary presbyteral council consultation is complete, the bishop can bring about the merger by way of a written decree. The decree will identify the assets and debts of the former parishes, which are assumed into the newly-merged parish. The parish will then operate with one pastor, parish council and finance council, yet may share staff, ministries and resources with the other entities in the cluster. Canons 121 and 122 address these issues more completely.

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