Personal parishes are established on the basis of a shared identity or purpose, not on the basis of shared neighborhood. They have no territorial boundaries apart from that of the diocese. Personal parishes’ presence alongside territorial parishes, therefore, raises questions about exactly how parish boundaries work, if they work, and why they continue to exist. American Catholics are increasingly mobile in their local religious practice, crossing boundaries to worship where they feel at home. This chapter argues that personal parishes resolve an institutional tension: Catholicism’s tradition of territoriality and boundaries, on the one hand, and the realities of American Catholics’ mobility, preference, and agency, on the other. The chapter traces the function and contradiction of parish boundaries in the contemporary Church. In so doing, it shows how institutions adapt organizational forms to accommodate new realities on the ground, reasserting institutional authority along the way.
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