Is there any way a priest can stay in one location for his whole life?
Can a Catholic priest be tied to a single parish or other physical church his entire life?
The short answer is yes, but in our day and age it is quite rare.
Historically, most priests, had tenure in their parishes for a very long duration. Priests being the pastor of just one parish for the duration of their priesthood was the norm, in past centuries.
Nowadays, priests are generally named pastors for about five or six years. But Canon Law states that they can be pastors for an indefinite length of time.
A parish priest can stay in a parish for a number of years, depending on the diocese and the local bishop.
When priest assignments are announced each year, many wonder how long a priest can stay in a single parish.
The Code of Canon Law favors the stability of a parish pastor, making it a law that pastors are to be assigned for an “indeterminate” amount of time.
A pastor must possess stability and therefore is to be appointed for an indefinite period of time. The diocesan bishop can appoint him for a specific period only if the conference of bishops has permitted this by a decree.
In 1984, the USCCB made a complementary decree that limited a pastor’s initial assignment to six years.
Individual ordinaries may appoint pastors to a six-year term of office. The possibility of renewing this term is left to the discretion of the diocesan bishop. The primary provision of canon 522 that pastors may be appointed for an indefinite period of time remains in force. Sometimes a bishop will transfer a pastor before his six year term is completed. This can be for various reasons and is permitted under Canon Law.
Term limits are seen as a means of limiting the development of an unhealthy cult that can surround popular priests, while others would argue that a term limit does not allow a priest to become familiar with his flock, forcing him to move every few years.
Whatever the case may be, it is up to the local bishop and the pastoral needs of each diocese.
Remember that St. Jean-Baptiste-Marie Vianney (8 May 1786 – 4 August 1859) also known as the “Curé d'Ars” was the pastor of Ars for his entire priesthood. He was appointed pastor in 1818 and died in 1859. Thus he was the pastor of Ars for over 40 years. Thus was quite a common thing his day and age.
Nevertheless, newly ordained priests generally always worked as an assistant pastor for a little time, before being named the pastor of a parish on their own!
Generally speaking religious priests (such as Benedictines or Carthusians) that live in monasteries reside their whole monastic life in a single monastery (monastic church), unless they are sent to found another monastery to be the chaplain of nuns of their Order or are named to be a bishop by the will of the Holy Father.
A religious brother, who can become a priest, can join a monastery or abbey, which will be his home for his entire life. In some cases, he may go out into the nearby communities for missionary work or to purchase the necessities of life. In other cases, he may never leave the monastery walls. Orders like the Benedictines do this (generally, there are some exceptions).
A secular priest (which refers to any priest who is not a member of a religious order, but is subordinated to a particular bishop) stays in the same diocese, so there should be no worry that you will be sent to a city "far away." You will at most be sent to the edge of the diocese. You can look up the physical boundaries of your diocese to see how far that is.
There are also canons, who are priests who may be secular or may belong to an order, depending on the particular group. These usually serve a cathedral or some other large church, such as St. John Cantius in Chicago, IL. This is perhaps the closest sort of lifestyle to what you are asking about.