The Atlantic

‘Everybody Wants a Revolution, but Nobody Wants to Do the Dishes’

Critics of the 2,000-year-old Catholic Church should understand how institutional change actually takes place.
Source: Photoprofi30 / Shutterstock / The Atlantic

Almost a decade ago, as a young graduate student in theology, I lived for a year in the rectory of a Catholic parish.

Like many other parishes in Boston faced with an ever-worsening clergy shortage, St. Mary of the Angels did not have a priest in residence. Rather than allowing the creaky 19th-century Victorian estate house that doubled as the church’s gathering space to stand empty, the parish made the decision to open the doors to laypeople.

I moved into the parish house and into an anomalous existence: I was a 24-year-old woman living in a Catholic church. In exchange for my bedroom above the office, I helped clean the church on Saturday mornings and set out the coffee and donuts—a veritable second Eucharist—after Mass on Sundays, dutifully cutting the pastries into quarters

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