Dear Friends in Christ,
Are you registered as a parishioner in the parish? This is an important question. In some parts of the world, parish registration is not a common practice. Here in the United States and especially here in Houston it is very important. Many Catholics remember when it was unheard of that a Catholic would venture outside their territorial parish, be it their village church or the parish that served the neighborhood. In many places it remains this way. Every parish and diocese has a territory and boundaries unless it is a personal or national entity. For example, here in Houston, Ascension Chinese Parish has no boundaries and is open to Chinese Catholics from throughout the Houston area. The Military Archdiocese is comprised of military personnel and their families in the U.S. Armed Services around the globe. The Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston covers ten counties of the Houston-Galveston metropolitan area (Harris, Galveston, Brazoria, Ft. Bend, Waller, Austin, Grimes, Walker, San Jacinto and Montgomery). St. John Vianney parish roughly covers an area from West Belt (Belt Way 8) to the east to State Highway 6 to the west, I-10 to the north to Briar Forest Drive to the South. Any Catholic living within these boundaries (not exact) lives in St. John Vianney parish. In the 1960’s, Bishop John L. Morkovsky, recognizing the greater mobility of people, allowed for Catholics in the diocese to belong to parishes outside their territorial parish provided that they knew the territorial parish in which they resided and that they registered in the parish they regularly attended. All parishes in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston are required to register parishioners and likewise all parishioners are required to register in the parish they attend.
Why is this important? It is important for a number of reasons that benefit the parishioner and also aid the parish in serving the parishioners. Many people believe that Catholic parishes are like grocery stores and that you can go to which ever one you like, whenever you like and receive all goods and services on demand. This however is not the case. The Catholic Church is a structured society and has a system of governance. Just as an American citizen cannot go to a foreign country on a whim and vote in their elections, so too Catholics cannot move about from parish to parish and request any type of service on a whim. Catholics may attend Mass and go to confession anywhere, but that does not make them members of that parish or diocese. Mere attendance does not make one a parishioner any more than travelling to France every summer makes someone a citizen of France. Clergy (bishops, priests and deacons) are restricted in where and in what ways they can serve. Bishops cannot go outside their diocese and celebrate the sacraments, preach or teach without the permission of the local bishop. Priests and deacons cannot go outside their own parish and minister without permission and delegation of the proper bishop and pastor. Similarly, priests and deacons cannot baptize or witness the marriages of persons who do not belong to their parish. Canon Law instructs that the faithful are to be baptized, confirmed and married within their own parish. The lay faithful have certain rights, but the exercise of these rights do not extend everywhere at all times and in all circumstances. This is just common sense.
Parish registration is for the good of both the parishioner and the parish administration. Having an accurate parish census and parish registration foster and facilitate good communication, aids in pastoral planning and ministry, and helps support the parish in being a stable and committed community of believers as opposed to some sort of religious convenience store!
Because we are such a mobile society, people are constantly moving from one place to another. If you have recently moved to our area, don’t forget to register in the parish! Also, remember to let your former parish know of your move as well. College students can remain as part of their family’s registration while they are in school or live at home, but if they are relocating to Chicago, Nashville or Midtown after graduation, they should register and become active in the parish where they reside. Can they still get married here? Sure! Sometimes, folks wonder if they retire and move away from the parish if they can still have their funeral mass here when their time comes. Of course! We are honored. But the bottom line is please be sure that you and your family are registered. How can you tell if you are registered or not? Well, that is easy. If you regularly receive communication from the parish – letters, postcards, e-mails, etc., you are registered. If you do not receive regular correspondence from the parish, you are probably not registered. Every few years, we attempt to update the parish registration. We will be doing this again in 2021. In instances where there is no activity or if the mail (or e-mail) is returned as non-deliverable, we attempt to contact the family. If there is no response after a number of tries we remove the family from our registration. To register in the parish is easy, just call the parish offices or go to our parish website.
In pace Christi,