Parish Barometer

In Austria, 45.000 women and men work on a voluntary basis as parish councillors. In this role, they play a key role in shaping the image of the parish. But where do they need support, what works particularly well? And what is needed to strengthen the parish council for challenges? The aim of the research project is to make the function of the parish council as a mouthpiece for committed Catholics in the parishes visible by the next election in 2027.

Parish Barometer

About the Research

The parish council is the governing body of a parish and is elected by its members every five years. Together with the parish priest, the parish council takes care of ongoing activities and the further development of the parish. But how do the elected volunteers experience their work for the parish council? How do they perceive community, where do they need support, what works particularly well and where are the parish councillors confronted with obstacles in their work? Above all: What is needed to strengthen the parish council for possible challenges – be it in view of the declining number of Catholics in general, or in the context of the decreasing number of long-term volunteers in particular? How can voluntary work be kept attractive and fit for the future?

The “Parish Council Barometer” analyzes the commitment of volunteers – their motives, their satisfaction with it, their wishes and visions. In addition, structural conditions – such as diocesan structural processes and social transformations – and the role of spirituality and relationship culture for successful voluntary work in the parish council are also examined. The aim of the project is to support parish councils in their voluntary work and to strengthen the function of the parish council as a public mouthpiece for committed Catholics in the parishes.

Methodologies

Literature research, conducting focus groups and implementing a total of three Austria-wide online surveys among active parish councillors, planned for 2024, 2025 and 2026. The Parish Council Barometer builds on previous surveys and closes corresponding gaps in research.

Milestones/Output

A summarizing brochure is to be published in time for the 2027 parish council elections.


Researcher

Bahtić-Kunrath Birgit

Research Fellow, Political Science, Human Rights and Democratizationbbahtic@ifz-salzburg.at