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.