Humble living in 2000 year old tradition

By+Lauren Keck

When the priests of St. Joseph Catholic Church stand at the entrances on Sunday mornings before each Mass greeting people, they are literally welcoming the approximate 750 families of St. Joseph Parish into their home.

The space they also call home is the 101-year-old rectory building, which serves as the priests’ residence. The historic home contains a staircase that directly connects the rectory’s dining room to the area behind the altar where the priests’ vestments are kept. And this is just one of the many ways that the physical space in which they live reflects the personal commitment Father John, Father Nate and Father Steve have to their church community.

From the outside, the rectory stands to the south of the church and is a modest brick home with a generous front porch—one of the priests’ favorite features of the residence.

Enter through the front door and immediately to the left is a beautiful and humble chapel of Father John’s own design. The priests have both daily morning and evening prayer in common as well as the opportunity for their own private prayer time in this space, and Father John comments that much of his homily preparation happens in the chapel.

The main level also contains a sitting room across from the chapel, a guest suite to welcome and accommodate visitors, a living room where meetings as well as social gatherings occur, a dining room complete with refinished and reupholstered furniture that may be almost as old as the home, and a large remodeled kitchen representative of the previous pastor’s love of cooking.

One of the unique aspects of religious life is the joy and challenge of making a home in a space that already contains not only the structural changes made by previous residents, but also their furniture and even some of their belongings that may have been left behind. The bookcases in the upstairs community room contain books from many prior pastors and associate pastors, and Father John, Father Nate, and Father Steve have simply added their own books to those shelves.

Father Nate has also creatively redefined the space in his own private room by filling the large space intended for a television in the entertainment hutch with a fish tank complete with a sunken Jedi Interceptor.

Father John’s private room includes a desk with shelves that incorporate glass from an old demolished church building, and on those shelves sit his personal antique book collection.

In these simple yet profound ways, these three priests have added their own personal journey to a home rich with history—just as they, by dedicating their individual lives to serving the Church, carry on a 2000-year-old tradition through their own unique paths.