In an effort to separate work and living spaces, and to live in community, two Webster pastors are moving to a Rochester rectory where they are joining two resident priests.
Father Charles Latus, pastor of St. Rita’s Parish, and Father Stan Kacprzak, pastor of St. Paul’s Parish, were to relocate in early September from their parish rectories to St. John the Evangelist Church on the city’s northeast side. There, they will live with Father Robert Schrader, first-year pastor of the Winton-Culver Parishes (St. John the Evangelist, St. James and St. Ambrose) and Father Robert Werth, first-year parochial vicar for Winton-Culver.
Father Latus said he and Father Kacprzak had discussed such a move for two years, originally pursuing a residence together in Webster. However, after Father Schrader was assigned the Winton-Culver pastorate, Father Latus inquired about the availability of St. Ambrose’s rectory.
“I told him that there were only two suites at St. Ambrose, but that St. John’s Rectory on Humboldt Street has four suites and four guest rooms and that they would be most welcome,” Father Schrader said.
Whereas several rectories in the Diocese of Rochester have more than one priest in residence, it’s rare for two pastors of sizeable parishes to concurrently move for this purpose — out of the town in which they minister, no less. Yet despite the seven-mile drive to work, Father Latus said, “It doesn’t change my commitment or presence in this parish at all.” He added that St. Rita’s parishioners are accepting of his move — “I think, basically, people have been very supportive.”
Priests living in community is an option that has been studied closely on the national, state and local levels, according to Father Schrader. He cited the 2003 book Evolving Visions of the Priesthood (Liturgical Press, Collegeville MN, 2003) by Dean R. Hoge and Jacqueline Wenger, professors at Catholic University of America. Among the book’s recommendations from priests were to “separate work space from living space” in order to avoid overwork and burnout, and to “combat loneliness by fostering priestly fraternity, especially in living situations.”
Father Schrader had raised these concerns in his proposal “Strategies for Sustaining a Healthy Presbyterate,” which addressed many elements of priests’ spiritual, mental, physical and emotional health. In 2003 Father Schrader submitted the document to the Priests’ Council of New York, and it has since been approved by the bishops of the eight dioceses in New York state. It was locally adapted by Rochester Bishop Matthew H. Clark last fall.
The subject of living in community has also been examined by the diocesan Priests’ Council, for which Father Latus recently concluded his term as president and Father Schrader as secretary. Both priests are also former diocesan directors of priest personnel. Now they will put into practice what they have been advocating.
“I really am very excited about it,” Father Latus said.
Meanwhile, Father Schrader is eager to welcome his new house mates. “It will be good to share their wisdom in reflecting on pastoral matters of the day. It will be good just to have their company to watch the evening news at the end of a busy day,” he said.
“I certainly endorse the concept,” said Father Michael Conboy, the current diocesan director of priest personnel. “I think it’s a great idea, living in a situation where they can share a common life of prayer and recreation and mutual exchange of ministry ideas.” Father Conboy added that it’s important for the priests to support each other not only in their ministry, but also in their personal lives.
Such moves must be approved by Bishop Clark. Father Latus said the bishop is generally supportive of any living situation that leads to a healthy priesthood. He also noted that when Bishop Clark arrived in Rochester in 1979, the bishop expressed a desire to live in the city as well as in community. In fact, the bishop resided briefly at St. John the Evangelist — “in the very room I’m living in now,” Father Schrader remarked. Today, Bishop Clark lives with three priests at Sacred Heart Cathedral.
Although living in a community of more than two priests is currently the exception rather than the norm, Father Latus said his move has sparked interest and questions from his fellow priests. With a declining number of priests, more may seek out such an option rather than to live alone and, in some cases, several miles apart from another priest, Fathers Latus and Schrader noted.
On the other hand, many active priests in the Rochester Diocese willingly reside alone, both in rectories and in residences off parish grounds. “There are some guys who will always choose to live independently, and that’s fine,” Father Latus said.
“There is no one model for all priests. We are as different one from another as anyone else,” Father Schrader added. “But I do encourage each priest to assure that his own living situation is the best for himself and his own personal health. If we all do that, we’ll have the best chance of having a cadre of healthy and energized priests to serve the needs of our diocesan faith communities.”