ASK FATHER: Considering moving to a Ukrainian Catholic Parish

From a reader…


I attend a NO parish and am considering moving to a Ukrainian Catholic Parish for a variety of reasons but mainly because I am attracted to the Divine Liturgy and the beautiful traditions they have held onto…not to mention that when you enter that Church, it’s definitely a sacred space where you leave the world and your heart lifts up to God. My question: Can I as a Roman Catholic register as a parishioner of a Ukrainian Catholic parish and remove myself as a parishioner of the NO parish? Am I obligated to financially support the NO parish? Am I under the authority of the Roman Catholic Diocese/Bishop, or the Ukrainian Catholic Bishop? Thank you for any guidance you can give Father, God Bless you :)


A couple interesting aspects here – Ritual Church ascription and parish registration.

One’s Ritual Church ascription is set at the time of baptism and, generally speaking, is set for life. There are some specific situations where one can change ascription through marriage (though I would recommend against someone marrying a random Chaldean hottie merely to change ritual Churches), and there are situations where, with special permissions from the necessary hierarchs, one can change Ritual Churches by decree.

For the vast majority of cases, this is not recommended or advised. Any Catholic is permitted to worship with other Catholics in any Ritual Church that is in communion with Rome – even on a stable basis, and even over the course of one’s lifetime. A Maronite may spend his life attending a Melchite parish every single Sunday with complete impunity. One must be attentive, however, and note that one is still bound by the laws of one’s Ritual Church. If the Maronite Patriarch makes the feast of St. Charbel Mahklouf a Holy Day of Obligation of all Maronites, then even one who regularly attends the Melchite Church must hear the Divine Liturgy on his feast day (which is the third Sunday in July according to the Maronite Calendar), though not necessarily in Maronite Church.

Registration in a parish… hmmm. This is a characteristically (but not exclusively) North American phenomenon. There is nothing in the Code of Canon Law about registering with a parish. It is not a canonical “thing” and provides no rights, instills no obligations, and has no canonical effects, despite the protestations of thousands of pastors, parish secretaries, religious education coordinators, school principals and the like. Pastors are not allowed to refuse sacraments to those who are not “registered” in the parish, nor should they refuse the non-registered the other spiritual benefits of the Church.

So, as a Latin Catholic, can one “register” in a Ukrainian parish? Absolutely – but know that it provides you with no canonical rights whatsoever.
Does that “remove” you as a parishioner of your Latin parish? Nope.
Are you obligated to financially support the Latin parish? Canon 222 of the Latin Code, to which you are still bound, requires that you assist the Church, insofar as you are able, to provide what is needed for divine worship and the decent support of the ministers. It does not specify how you are required to do so, or which specific parish or diocese you support. In plain justice, one should support the parish from which one receives spiritual assistance.
Under the authority of which bishop are you? Your proper bishop, which would be the bishop of the Latin Diocese in which you live.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Lepidus says:

    Does Fr. Z have a Gold Star of the Day for Guest Responses? I would like to nominate Fr. Ferguson for the “random Chaldean hottie” comment! :)

  2. Atra Dicenda, Rubra Agenda says:

    If one stably attends a rite outside their baptismal rite and starts having kids, can they just simply be baptized (and receive the rest of the Sacraments) in the rite the family/parents attend weekly or are they supposed to be baptized in their parents baptismal rite? [Membership in a Church is formal, not informal.]

  3. mulieribus says:

    I recently heard a sermon whereby the priest highly encouraged all Catholics to register with their parish so that they might be able to receive the graces of the “Missa pro populo” which a pastor is required to offer for his parish on all Sundays and Holydays of Obligation. This reason alone should be enough to make one want to register with a parish. [Registration in a territorial parish doesn’t mean that you belong to that parish. Living in the territorial parish means that you belong to that parish.]

  4. spock says:

    I could say an awful lot here. Probably would go off topic and say more than anyone would care to read….. Suffice to say that I am gratified that we have a fair amount of latitude in which particular Church we support at a practical level.

    Holy Priests, no EMHC’s, no odd music, reverent, appropriate decor, no altar girls, no communion in the hand. OK, I’m going off topic. Signing off.

  5. Pingback: THVRSDAY CATHOLICA EDITION | Big Pulpit

  6. crownvic says:

    Thou shalt register so that thou mayest receive thy offering envelopes..

  7. cwillia1 says:

    For most people, participation in parish life where one attends services is enough. Keeping two sets of holy days and different fasting rules is a minor inconvenience. But being an Eastern rite Catholic is more than a matter of church architecture and appreciation of the Divine Liturgy. It encompasses the details of how one practices the Christian faith in daily life.

  8. Sonshine135 says:

    This was an extremely insightful post. I go to a church that has an attached Byzantine Mission, and will sometimes attend Mass there. I enjoy the sung liturgy of the Eastern Rite. I also attend Ordinariate Mass on occasion when visiting my folks. My Father is Anglican and my Mother Roman Catholic. The Ordinariate was a compromise for them both, though I would say that the liturgy is far better than many NO parishes.

  9. The Egyptian says:

    registration is required so as to be able to mail out appeals, demands and assignments to the parishioners. How else is the liturgy committee and the mission committee and all the others going to be able to assign your place in the “active ” ministry in the parish let alone how to asses you for every project.

    lest you jest, our former pastor, a real piece of work, announced that everyone under the age of 80 MUST sign up a liturgical function, all who didn’t would be assigned to liturgical dance. In the end he called everyone and assigned a function whether you liked it or not, and called you out by name if you refused. He also announced from the pulpit that members of the parish were forbidden to go anywhere but to him for confession. fortunately he was soundly ignored.

    may he rest in peace

  10. hwriggles4 says:

    I have heard stories about priests who refused to take a sick call in the middle of the night because the person who was sick was not one of their parishioners. I even knew a nurse who would sometimes contact multiple parishes to find a priest because a patient asked for one in the evening, even if it was between 2200 hours and 0600 hours. Priests, make the time – some of these patients are fallen away Catholics and your witness will help them return to the faith.

  11. Robster says:

    I thought that some decades ago, some US bishop entity abolished the absolute requirement that if one lives in the parish territory, one MUST attend that parish church.

    OF churches in NJ are designated ‘chapels. ‘ St Anthony of Padua, West Orange (Newark Arch) Our Lady of Fatima (Paterson diocese). Their members come from all over, sometimes many miles.

    There is a Latin Mass ‘community” that celebrates the OF at the former Immaculate Conception parish of Sleepy Hollow NY (now a Maronite rite parish under Maronite rite jurisdiction, not NY Arch). Cf. Una Voce Westchester web site.

  12. un-ionized says:

    cwillia1, what you say is true and this is much more than parish shopping for things that don’t offend us. If we want to really participate in Eastern Rite Catholicism we truly must pay attention to how that works in everyday life. I am just learning and find there is a whole world of practice of which I wasn’t aware.

  13. jfk03 says:

    I regularly attend a Ukranian Greek Catholic parish while maintaining connection with my territorial,Roman Catholic parish. There are many differences, not the least of which are the fasting rules and the liturgy. Chatting in church before or after liturgy is not tolerated in the Eastern tradition. Baptized infants and children receive holy communion. The liturgy is much longer and is entirely sung. That said, there are many good, holy people in both parishes. There is no reason why these very different traditions cannot enrich and complement each other. The alternative is a pharisaical attitude that one is better than the other. I am “registered” in both and support both.

  14. Multinucleate says:

    “One’s Ritual Church ascription is set at the time of baptism and, generally speaking, is set for life.”

    For converts who were baptized as Protestants, would this mean the Ritual Church where one was confirmed?

    (Also, the Catholic parish where I was confirmed is very….liberal-minded…and I stopped attending Mass there. Is it illicit to attend Mass at any of the local parishes without consistency week-to-week? St. Mary’s one week, St. Anthony’s another, etc)

  15. JohnMa says:

    Unfortunately, hwriggles is correct. A couple years ago a friend who was out of town asked me to contact a priest to offer his grandfather Confession, Viaticum, and Annointing. I called the five closest parishes and not a single one would go because he wasn’t a registered parishioner. One told me that I could call the Cathedral and they’d send a priest (which they did). But there are over 30 parishes between where this man lived and the Cathedral. What happens if that hour meant the difference between salvation and Hell?

  16. scotus says:

    Registration is, indeed, not confined to North America. My parish in Scotland asks Catholics living in the parish to register. Apart from receiving a newsletter from the parish I’m not sure what other consequences there are, if any, to becoming registered. And not being registered is no bar to anything.
    It is interesting to observe the difference between the Catholic Church and Protestant ecclesial communities. For the Church of Scotland, at least, you do indeed become a member of a particular parish although it does not need to be the one in which you live. You will then be visited by an elder prior to a communion service to be given your communion card although I don’t think that possession of the card is regarded nowadays as being terribly important. My local CoS minister wants Hindus, Moslems, Buddhists and even atheists to attend the communion services in his church. Something to do with it not being a privilege for the converted but a sign of fellowship to all and sundry.

  17. Fr AJ says:

    The idea that registering in a parish has no effect (which is very true) would be news to many pastors here in the U.S. I have a bulletin from a neighboring parish on my desk which says on the cover that a person must be registered in order to receive sacraments such as Baptism for their child or Matrimony. I’m not sure how this practice got started in so many places.

  18. Gregg the Obscure says:

    Multinucleate: Denver’s Archbishop Samuel Aquila recently said that Catholics are expected to attend and support just one parish which would usually be their geographic parish.

    I’m a convert myself. We moved into our current house while I was in RCIA (the current house happens to be in a different parish than the one where I started RCIA), but for 17 years now we have stuck with that first parish.

  19. Nan says:

    Keep in mind those baptized infants and children received all three sacraments of initiation together so have received first communion and were confirmed.

  20. Nan says:

    A lot of people get upset at something or don’t like the parishes in their area, then go to an Eastern parish, sometimes learning the traditions of that rite, other times going to Sunday liturgy never realizing there are fasts at different times of year that are more complex than eating less and not eating meat. When things change, they go back to the Latin parish.

    A woman whose uncle is a bishop said her parents and many others took refuge in the local Ukrainian parish when they didn’t like what was going on in their parish. Times changed and they all went back.

    I’m told that it’s typical to spend time in another rite but never attempt to formally change ones rite. Because under the 1917 code of canon law women automatically changed to their husbands rite, there’s also a way to petition to reclaim ones ancestral rite for those Latins whose mother or grandmother changed rites upon marriage and would like to change rites.

  21. Yes, it encompasses how one practices the faith in Christian life indeed. How one prays, if we are to pray unceasingly, is reflected in our lives, an extension from and back to the Divine Liturgy. Or really, better yet, hopefully, like the rungs of a ladder, moving up one hopes! I think one really must try to live thouroughly the liturgical cycles whichever rite they attend.

  22. Moro says:

    I’m single in my 30s and I’m very much guilty of parish hopping, including rite hopping. Two cities ago, when I lived further than where I am now, I had a steady parish. I see the benefits of sticking with one solid parish – you see it all birth, marriage, death, sickness, health, etc. If you have children, you need to have a place for solid catechesis and even if you home schooling, it needs to go beyond what mom and dad teach at their homeschool. A regular parish can also help you to get a regular confessor who can give you more pointed advice. Whatever rite, personal parish, geographic parish, I recommend you stick with one and help to make it a better and more vibrant (in the proper sense of the word) parish.

  23. Multinucleate says:

    Gregg the Obscure: Thanks for the info. I was never sure if I officially/technically “belonged” to any territorial parish…when I was undergoing RCIA, we were told Catholics can worship at any Catholic parish.

    Perhaps I should regularly attend one parish at least for Sunday Mass. It would help to steer clear of the temptation of “novelties” of visiting different parishes for the sake of “trying things out”.

  24. James in Perth says:

    Permitted or not, I joined the Byzantine Catholic parish where I live. It happens to be closest Catholic parish but I have grown to love the Divine Liturgy and the outstanding preaching and catechesis that is lacking in most Roman Catholic parishes. I am very happy where I am now.

    That said, when our pastor was traveling and no other priest was available for Sunday liturgy, we had a Typica service led by the deacon. The pastor – good man that he is – checked with local Roman Catholic ordinary (Archbishop Aquila in fact) to make sure that this service would satisfy the Sunday obligation of the parishioners under the Roman rite. The Archdiocese confirmed that it would.

    So there is understanding and cooperation. As you would expect. The number leaving the Eastern churches to go to Roman Catholic parishes dwarfs the number going the opposite direction.

  25. JesusFreak84 says:

    My UGCC parish is in the camp of “must be registered to be married or buried from here,” though I never knew if it was a parish policy or an Eparchy policy. (Our Eparchy…could be better…about communicating important stuff in English =-\ ) I registered because I would rather be buried out of there than my territorial Roman parish, and because the previous pastor *constantly* made it sound like our parish was on the very edge of being closed by the Eparchy due to a lack of registrations/donations. That said, I now own (and use) Ukrainian (and generally-Byzantine) prayer books, I have a copy of the UGCC’s Catechism in English, etc.

    I honestly never worried much about whether it was “wrong” for a Latin Catholic to attend an Eastern parish, because I figured, logically, given the number of Roman vs. non-Roman parishes, (and the geographical spread thereof,) there must be plenty of non-Roman/Latin Catholics attending Roman Catholic parishes (college chapels, for example,) and I’d never read of there being a problem with that, so…

    All Saints is the only real sticking point on the liturgical calendar’s HDOs, at least for me. My parish follows the Gregorian calendar, so Christmas is Christmas no matter how you slice it, (though Father offered an additional Christmas Divine Liturgy on Julian Christmas this year,) and every other Roman Rite HDO in the US is also an HDO in the UGCC, (though I try and also attend UGCC-specific HDOs whenever I can.) On All Saints, I just go to my Baptismal parish and pray no one tries to touch me during the Sign of Peace >.<;;;

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