From a reader…
I am a parishoner at an ethnic church in the Archdiocese of X with national boundaries where there are Masses, sacraments, services, etc in my preferred language.
However, I live 20 minutes away in the Diocese of Y. Who is “my bishop”? The bishop who guides my pastor and visits our parish? Or is “my bishop” the Bishop of Y?
In an ideal world, when one moved into a new place, one’s local, friendly pastor would stop by the next day or so, doff his biretta at the lady of the house, bless the domicile, and sit down for a few minutes chat over tea about the ages and catechetical stages of all the children pattering about vying for Father’s attention. Father would then leave his calling card, a recent copy of the parish bulletin, some starter envelopes, and a friendly wave.
Alas, we are mostly far from living in such idyllic villages, and people come and go so frequently and anonymously that keeping track of folks is the stuff of statisticians and guestimators.
Every Catholic has a parish. Some have more than one.
Every place you have a domicile (where you intend to live with some degree of permanence, or have actually lived for five years) or quasi-domicile (where you intend to live for at least three months, or actually have lived for three months) is within the territory of a parish and a diocese.
You are a member of that parish, whether or not you fill out a registration form, whether you ever go there, whether you even know where it is.
Additionally, there are personal parishes for some groups of people, often defined by ethnicity or nationality. If your mother is Korean, your father is Wendish, and you’re a university student who lives in a dorm during the school year, and in a house on State and Main as your permanent resident, you are, de facto, a member of St. Andrew Kim Parish, St. Knut of the Wends Parish, St. Albertus Magnus University Parish, and Old St. Ludmilla’s, the territorial parish.
Ethnic or personal parishes also have boundaries. If there are none specifically described in the decree establishing the parish, then the boundaries of a personal parish are coterminous with the diocese. A bishop can’t “poach” Catholics living in the territory of another diocese. Your bishop is always the bishop of the diocese in which you are living. If you are homeless and vagrant, your bishop is the bishop of whatever diocese you happen to be in at any moment. The pastor of a vagrant is the pastor of wherever that vagrant happens to be at that moment. Everyone has a pastor.
With modern mobility, especially in North America, many Catholics choose to go to Mass in parishes where they are not actually members. Sometimes, they even register at these parishes, thinking that registering makes them members.
Alas and alack, registering in a parish has no canonical effect. It’s simply a convenient way for pastors to gain some understanding of who is actually coming to the parish.
Please make life easy for your pastor and register.
If you are a member of an ethnic group, or otherwise identify with a group for whom there is a personal parish in a nearby diocese, by all means go. Worship. Participate. Confess. Join the Altar Society. But let the pastor know that you are resident in the neighboring diocese.
If Father Jaromar of St. Knut of the Wends Parish notices that he has 70 parishioners coming each week from the neighboring diocese, he might want to inform the bishop of that diocese that the Wendish population of his diocese is not being served, and that he’d be happy to contact a friend of his, Father Vitzlav, who might be willing to come over from Stralsund to care for the burgeoning Wendish populace.