A place to call home: Four rectories completed, three more under construction in diocese
FORT WORTH- Where other dioceses are closing or converting former church-related buildings, the Diocese of Fort Worth is building and updating.
Several New Jersey Catholic churches, rectories, and schools have converted into private homes, community centers, and other secular uses, according to a 2023 NJ.com article. Additional news articles report similar trends throughout the U.S. and the world.
In the Diocese of Fort Worth, however, work is underway to replace aging rectories or add them to parish campuses that previously lacked a rectory.
Fort Worth, Keller, Wichita Falls, and Bridgeport parishes received new rectories over the past four years while construction at three more is expected to be complete by year’s end.
The plan, Diocese Senior Construction Manager Tom Ross said, is to continue building.
“Of our 92 parishes, some won’t require a change in rectory location for some time,” Ross said. “Some, because of age or condition, we’d like to change as soon as possible, but finances are a hindrance. As time allows and money becomes available, we’ll look at addressing those.”
Most older parishes included a rectory on their campus. Trends changed for churches constructed mid-century on.
“There were several factors to that,” Ross said. “One being the size of the parish campus and whether it could accommodate a rectory or not. Some can’t. So, in many cases, it became looking at housing within the neighborhood and checking if there was available housing close by, using that as opposed to building a rectory… A lot has changed, and the trend now is we’re trying to build new rectories on campuses, if possible.”
New rectory benefits range from relocating priests closer to their parish to updating safety and convenience amenities to security. Housing a priest, or priests, on campus also goes a long way toward discouraging parish vandalism or break ins. And although rectories function as homes, they also include private chapels, common areas, work, and study areas, and often house more than one priest.
“In conversations we’ve had with priests and building committees involved, we’ve stressed that we’re not building these rectories for a specific priest,” Ross said.
“Priests will change over the years, so we’re designing for the duration of the life of the rectory.”
In the pursuit of making these long-lasting structures for current and future priests, however, challenges arise from the fact that parishes, not the diocese, are responsible for raising construction funding as well as the difficulties discerning what changes can be performed on rectories designated as historic.
To meet the fundraising challenge for their rectory, Fort Worth’s St. Andrew Parish sold an older home several blocks from the church previously used as a rectory to help pay the debt on their new building.
As for the layout of the rectory, the diocese employed Laurie Murphy Architects and RPGA Design Group to develop three models of varying square footage able to accommodate two to three priests and a guest bedroom.
Of the rectories so far completed, the response has been positive, Ross said.
“This is a beautiful new home that contributes to our work and the parish,” said Father Anto Carloose, SAC, of Bridgeport’s St. John the Baptizer Parish.
Bishop Michael Olson blessed the St. John the Baptizer’s new rectory in April, and parish members toured it on May 7. Fr. Carloose and Fr. Sam Antony, SAC, then moved in on May 8. Both priests serve what they call a tri-parish area consisting of Bridgeport’s St. John, Jacksboro’s St. Mary Parish, and Decatur’s Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish.
“We had an old, smaller rectory at Bridgeport,” Fr. Carloose said. “But we never had a proper office for the three parishes, so our plan is to convert that old rectory into an office. We’re getting quotes and working on that now.”
Father Wilson Lucka of Azle’s Holy Trinity Church likewise expressed gratitude for the new rectory soon to be built on his church campus.
Holy Trinity functioned as a mission of St. Thomas the Apostle Church from 1982 until 2019 when Bishop Olson established it as an independent parish.
“I’m the first full-time priest at the parish, and this will be our first rectory,” Fr. Lucka said. “It will be on the same campus as the church. And the rectory will belong to the parish as opposed to renting a house. It will have more room and conveniences. It will have a guestroom so, if another priest comes, he can stay there. More than that, I think it will help to better work with parishioners and the church.”