A cluster is “a grouping of geographically bordering parishes working together on a shared vision and ministry plan.” Clustering involves collaboration but is a formal relationship between parishes leading to the sharing of personnel, ministries, programs and resources.
Collaboration is “the willing cooperation of two or more entities to work together on common projects for mutual benefit.” All parishes, regardless of size, should explore ways of providing the most effective ministries by working with other parishes or clusters.
Due to the shortage of priests in the diocese, the diocese in the 2000′s expanded the number of parishes being served by Parish Life Coordinators who were entrusted with a share in the pastoral care of the parishes in their cluster (cf. canon 517.2). Although “full care of souls” is entrusted to priests (canon 150), partial care came to be viewed as a responsibility that can be shared by many, including laity, deacons, and vowed religious. This model is generally considered an alternative to closing or merging parishes. While each parish would prefer to have its own pastor and living in their rectory, most parishes where this model is being used are satisfied with Parish Life Coordinators realizing that their parish can remain open.