This quote is taken from The Parish Management Handbook, as it set the stage for a theology of leadership in the Catholic Church (pgs. 20-21).
“There, he said, the pastor is competent to exercise the care of souls who gather in a given locale. Rahner summed it up this way: ‘One man is in charge of the whole pastoral work done among a group of people who are collected together under him because they have their home on the same soil.’
“Today we might balk at the phrase, ‘in charge of the whole pastoral work,’ because it seems to contradict the idea of collaborative ministry. But Rahner did not mean that the priest alone does pastoral work. Pastors undoubtedly rely on their staffs. Rahner’s point was rather that the parish, and the pastor to whom it is entrusted, cannot be characterized as mere stand-ins for the diocese and the bishop.
“Parishes are more than franchises, we can say, and pastors are more than branch managers. Indeed, the parish is ‘the diocese in miniature,’ said Rahner. It is the place where Christians find a home and become a people…
“He argued that the parish is more than a transitory representation of the universal church, defined as the perfect society founded by Christ with a permanent existence. The parish, said Rahner, is rather ‘the highest degree of actuality of the total Church.’ Undoubtedly the total or universal Church has a unique dignity. It endures by divine right, sacred tradition, apostolic succession, and ecclesial law.
“At the same time, however, this church is unfinished. It must become what it is meant to be. ‘It must translate itself from a certain potentiality into a definite, determined actuality,’ claimed Rahner, ‘and the whole enduring essence of the Church is directed to this event.’ It takes place in the parish.”