A priest, Father Joe Laramie. S.J., weighs in over at America: 

For over 100 years, the rectory has been a living symbol of Catholic Americana. Where does the priest live? Right there, next door to the church. Some rectories remain vibrant centers of faith and community. Some are being reimagined in Christ-centered ways. A few need a wrecking ball. Many of these brick and stone structures were built in the 1940s or 1950s. They were designed to house four to eight priests. Most now house one priest—or sometimes none, if one pastor serves multiple parishes.

A recent study of Catholic priests in the United States titled, “Well-being, Trust, and Policy in a Time of Crisis,” indicated that 77 percent of priests are “flourishing,” according to their score on the Harvard University flourishing index. But many priests—even those who are flourishing—also reported indicators of burnout, especially among younger priests. Sixty percent of priests under the age of 45 reported signs of burnout, with nearly one in 10 of these young priests reporting “severe burnout.” The reasons they named are familiar to anyone working in church ministry: the sexual abuse crisis, parish mergers, as well as friction between priests and bishops.

These data make clear what many Catholics already know: Priests need supportive structures and relationships so that they can live wholesome and holy lives in our challenging and changing American context. My visits to rectories have helped me conduct an informal study of the joys and challenges that come with how priests are living today. It has made me wonder: How can we reimagine and repurpose rectories to meet the current needs of priests and parishes? Based on the survey results and my own experience, having a young priest live alone in a large rectory is not a recipe for priestly “flourishing.”

Read on to see some examples of how some communities are reinventing the concept of “rectory.”