Participating in the National Survey of Personal Parishes?

The National Survey of Personal Parishes recently went out to representatives from Catholic dioceses around the United States. This research is sponsored by The Louisville Institute and National Science Foundation and has been distributed by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate of Georgetown University.

What are “personal parishes”?

Personal parishes can be loosely thought of as non-territorial parishes, designated under the Catholic Code of Canon Law (no. 518):

“As a general rule a parish is to be territorial, that is, it embraces all of the Christian faithful within a certain territory; whenever it is judged useful, however, personal parishes are to be established based upon rite, language, the nationality of the Christian faithful within some territory or even some other determining factor.”

Dioceses are encouraged to provide information about personal parishes in their area, helping all to better understand how the Catholic Church meets the diverse needs of local Catholics.

Need an additional copy of the survey? Access it here via the CARA webpage (click on “National Survey of Personal Parishes”). Please respond by August 31, 2012.

As the principal investigator for this project, survey respondents and other interested parties are welcome to contact me with any questions, feedback, or information.

THANK YOU for your participation in this important research!

Survey stuffing day!


My national survey on personal (non-territorial) parishes is in its final stages of preparation for dissimination. Georgetown University’s CARA (the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate) has been an exceptional partner in this process. Above, student intern Mason takes the lead in putting together all the key components for mailing to every Catholic arch/diocese in the U.S.

Support from the National Science Foundation


The National Science Foundation has recently awarded my project, entitled “Formal Responses to Increasing Diversity within Social Institutions.” Together with funding from The Louisville Institute, this generous support will enable me to carry out a national survey and follow-up case studies of “personal” (i.e. non-territorial) parishes in the U.S. Catholic Church. NSF funding will also facilitate the training of undergraduate student collaborators in social science research.

A description of the project, awarded through a standard grant of the NSF Sociology program, can be found here.


Thank You to The Louisville Institute


I offer my sincere gratitute to The Louisville Institute for supporting my current research on “personal” (non-territorial) parishes in the Catholic Church. Thanks to a 2012 Project Grant for Researchers, I will be able to expand my work nationally and use a multi-method approach to shed light on this timely phenonemon with relevance across denominational lines.

A list of all 2012 grant recipients can be found here.

Presentations at the Association for the Sociology of Religion and American Sociological Association Annual Meetings, Las Vegas


I’ve just returned from Las Vegas, NV after presenting papers at the Association for the Sociology of Religion and American Sociological Association Annual Meetings.

My first paper was part of a great panel of scholars (Orit Avishai, Lynne Gerber, and R. Stephen Warner) contemplating questions of engaged scholarship on religion. The abstract is below.

“Twice as Nice?: Bridging Dual Audiences in Going ‘Public’ with Scholarship on Religion”

ABSTRACT: Doing “engaged” scholarship in the sociology of religion necessitates bridging two disparate potentially overlapping audiences: the “academy” and the “public,” the latter of which includes individuals and groups for whom our work as sociologists carries substantial practical import. How, then, do we present research findings in a way that is both significant in its contribution to existing sociological literature while also being understandable, meaningful, and practically applicable to a broader audience? And how can we reach multiple audiences in sharing our findings? This paper discusses strategies and challenges in disseminating scholarship on religion to multiple and differently situated audiences.

The second, given at ASA, introduced some of the themes I’ve encountered in my new research on “personal parishes” in the U.S. Catholic Church.

Blurring Boundaries in Constructing Religion Locally: Personal Parishes in the U.S. Catholic Church

ABSTRACT: “Personal parishes,” defined in Catholic Canon Law not by territory but by service to a particular population or special need, represent an emergent but understudied model of parish development in the U.S. Catholic Church. With little discussion across dioceses or attention from scholars of religion, their presence in the United States has grown rapidly in the past two decades as a consequence of changes in Canon Law, increased papal receptivity, and advocacy among Catholics both lay and ordained. Personal parishes accommodating various ethnic groups, worship styles, and missions emerge at the intersection of lay mobilization and elite validation, as local bishops independently adjudicate when and which Catholic communities may receive the canonical status of “parish.” This paper offers entre into this reorganization of local religion from territorially-based to identity-driven through a case examination of the Archdiocese of Seattle, where five personal parishes have been established since 2008.