Parishes and Parish Ministers

Murnion, Philip J. and David DeLambo. Parishes and Parish Ministers: A Study of Pairsh Lay Ministry. New York, NY: National Pastoral Life Center, 1999.

Parishes and Parish Ministers reports on a five-year follow-up study of an original survey in 1992 on ecclesial lay ministry and parish life. This follow-up study, as well as the original, was conducted in two phases. The first phase, a profile of parish life, portrayed demographic characteristics, ministry practices, and staffing patterns of 2,899 randomly selected parishes from forty-three dioceses. The second phase, using parishes identified by phase one as employing ecclesial lay ministers, surveyed the pastors, lay ministers, and five parishioners of each parish concerning the activities of their lay minister(s). <p>Phase one results showed that the number of parishioners per parish had increased, as well as the number of territorial parishes. The number of religious orders responsible for parishes had risen only slightly. Two and three tenths percent of the parishes were without a resident priest pastor, having been led by a deacon, woman religious, or layperson, or some combination, while seventeen percent of the parishes were a part of a merger or cluster of parishes. Seventeen percent of the parishes celebrated Mass in Spanish, while an additional three percent did so in an additional language other than English. The majority of policies on confirmation age invited young people ages fourteen to sixteen, while a small percentage invited children under twelve. Parishes created more mission statements, increased planning, and utilized pastoral and financial counsels in the majority of cases. Almost half of the parishes reported the occurrence of some form of tithing. <p>Phase two showed the number of parish ministers had increased and was greater than that of parish priests, whose number had decreased. Parish ministers were found in sixty-three percent of the parishes, and seventy-one percent of those ministers were laypersons. Volunteer lay ministers alone provided 810 service hours per month, the same as five full-time pastors. Lay ministers were predominately female, from the local parish, and well-educated, although less so than religious. Minorities were not proportionately represented. The most common positions were religious education, general pastoral minister, and liturgy and music. Two-thirds of the laypersons and one-half of religious had had previous experiences in different parishes. Parish ministers arrived in their positions from a sense of calling, the attraction of the nature of ministry, and also due to invitation by other pastors. While salary had improved, it remained the most cited factor for improvement, as well as the possible reason lay ministers left employment.

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