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Is there any way a priest can stay in one location for his whole life?

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    If their superior decides that they should.
    – OrangeDog
    Jan 25, 2023 at 12:47
  • Even outside Christianity or more generally religion, do you expect anyone to be employed in the same company / branch / department their whole lives? Is there something specific to Catholicism / Christianity / religion that makes you think this?
    – BCLC
    Jan 25, 2023 at 17:11
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    Some priests were anchorites.
    – Kirt
    Jan 26, 2023 at 19:57
  • @BCLC, I quite do. My mom is still on her first job, for four decades now, and my father has worked on one company for more than three decades. Feb 13, 2023 at 23:24

2 Answers 2

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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.

Can. 522

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.

How long can a priest stay in a parish?

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.

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  • This answer leaves out states of life, such as that of canons regular or contemplative religious, which may have a priest legitimately stationed at one physical location for his entire life.
    – jaredad7
    Jan 25, 2023 at 14:14
  • In my diocese, and this may set an example if it works, we're changing switching from 100 parishes down to about 30, so pastors may go back to being tied to their parishes for much longer (but that's less than 1/3rd of the priests in the diocese). In that case, do you think that younger priests are going to be transferred more or less often? (I think their reason for going this route was to do less transferring, but I somehow doubt that's going to be the case)
    – Peter Turner
    Jan 25, 2023 at 14:28
  • @jaredad7 You already mentioned that in your answer, so I have no need to state it again.
    – Ken Graham
    Jan 25, 2023 at 14:29
  • @PeterTurner the reason for that change is undoubtedly there aren't enough priests or parishioners to sustain that many parishes.
    – OrangeDog
    Jan 25, 2023 at 20:45
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    There is an anecdote of a parish priest in the Church of England who stayed in the same post for over 70 years. When his bishop suggested he might retire he is said to have replied that, when the bishop's predecessor but five, had appointed him, there was no suggestion the appointment was temporary.
    – davidlol
    Jan 25, 2023 at 21:38
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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.

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    "There are also canons, who are priests which are not necessarily secular, but also do not belong to religious orders." Huh? There are secular canons (rare in the US) and these are commonly cathedral canons in Europe. There are also canons regular like those at St. John Cantius, but those do belong to an order.
    – eques
    Jan 25, 2023 at 13:40
  • Yes there are secular canons and "canons regular." Canons regular follow a rule. You are correct that secular canons are rare.
    – jaredad7
    Jan 25, 2023 at 14:05
  • My point was that the part I quoted doesn't make sense. Not secular and doesn't belong to an order? Usually those are opposed categories (allowing for the sometime distinction between a congregation and an order properly speaking)
    – eques
    Jan 25, 2023 at 16:47
  • I'm saying canons may or may not belong to an order. I'll edit the answer to be more clear.
    – jaredad7
    Jan 25, 2023 at 17:09
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    I know a "hermit priest" who has been in the same isolated location (in the U.S.) for decades, and will probably be there for the rest of his career. He also performs the services for the convent next to us. I don't know what that makes him in the scheme above though. Jan 26, 2023 at 14:18

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