Largest Parish in Germany To Be Established in 2020

Under the conditions of priest shortage and severely dropping numbers of Catholics, dioceses in Germany are currently restructuring their parishes and their laws of administration. No diocese has gone as far as Trier in the Southwest of Germany: 1.2 million Catholics used to be divided into little less than 900 parishes (about 1,300 per parish in average), but in coming years this number will be radically reduced to 35 (about 35,000 average).

Those new “large-parishes” will be led by a governing body of up to five people: The parish priest as chairman, an other person (priest or layperson) working full-time in pastoral care, a full-time manager responsible for financial affairs, and up to two elected unsalaried parish members. To make this governing structure possible, Bishop Stephan Ackermann decreed specific diocesan laws following a diocesan synod from 2013 to 2016.

On January 1, 2020, the largest parish of Germany will be established in Saarbruecken with 99.000 Catholics—almost as many people as the East German dioceses of Magdeburg and Goerlitz combined.

While the restructuring process is still widely discussed and openly criticized (especially by parishioners in rural areas worrying about their local traditions, identity, and pastoral care), experienced business consultants and economists were appointed for the first new employments as full-time parish managers. If the entire restructuring process succeeds, it might prove that is it possible to distribute power in the Catholic Church among more people with different skills and tasks than just one parish priest, to professionalize financial administration, and to set priests and laypersons in pastoral care free to focus more on spiritual aspects of their work.

9 comments

  1. For context, I am assuming that the 99,000 number is roughly equivalanet to the number of self-identified Catholics within the parish’s territorial bounds, not how many people attend liturgy on Sundays/Holy Days, or partake of the sacrament of Confession, etc.

    1. It is the number of Catholics according to the Canon Law. The regular Sunday service attendance in the diocese of Trier is around 7-8%, which would mean around 7,000-8,000 in the new large parish.

      1. When considered in terms of actual attendance, which is presumably most relevant when considering parish size / structure, there are apparently even more massive examples internationally.

        St. Matthew in Charlotte, N.C. for instance reportedly averages 12,000 people at weekend Masses.

      2. Attendance at liturgies may be small but the pastoral and sacramental care of the parish would still be a huge task of 99,000 since many who don’t attend liturgy on a regular basis still want their children baptized, communed and confirmed. Many would want to be married in the Church and have a Catholic funeral.

  2. Sean,

    My understanding is that irregular pastoral care needs still tend to scale with regular attendance. That is, when regular attendance drops amongst self-identified Catholics, you also see drops in Christmas/Easter only people, just want the kids baptised people and so on.

    It is part of the tragedy of the gradual disappearance of cultural Christians. They may never have been super engaged with the Church, but they were the onramp to greater engagement.

  3. Well, large parishes in the south ( I’m in North Carolina, Baptist land) work in exactly this way. It’s like being a member of a community college. It’s weird in a lot of ways, but it’s not the end of the world.

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