Open House: Father Jason’s Rectory


Thanks to Father Jason Malave for allowing me to take photos as he showed me around the parish rectory. Father Jason is an old gym buddy turned good friend, so while I’ll do my best not to tease, I can’t make any promises.  Also, I don’t call him Father Jason in real life.  Nor do I call him Malave, but that’s got a nice ring to it, so perhaps I’ll start.

Unlike most Open House stars, St. Bartholomew’s Father Jason Malave doesn’t own or rent his space.  Free housing’s one of the benefits of priesthood but the Chicago native knows in a few years, the boys upstairs will move him to another parish; it’s part of the gig.  Sure, Malave loves his parishioners and co-workers; he’s invested in the neighborhood and comfortable in his digs, but like all priests, he knows he’s just taking care of the joint until the next guy takes over.  In this, the lack of control, the priesthood mirrors life.

Located on a lovely little residential street on Chicago’s northwest side, the rectory stands next to the school and church, but according to Malave, saving a little time on commuting pales as a benefit in comparison to the deep sense of purpose the work provides.

“I feel grateful and privileged that the parishioners allow me to be part of their families,” says Malave.

Unlike many corporate types in equivalent positions of authority, Malavi really means it.  Indeed, while the preppy priest concedes that the job can be all-consuming, he does so only when pressed.  Instead, Malavi talks about how much he enjoys being given the opportunity to minister, to help and to hang out with people of all ages and walks of life.

Continued . . .


“Womb to tomb and everybody in between,” says Malave.

Because this is a design blog (sort of), I feel comfortable pointing out that Father Jason Malave gets to live in one cool pad.  While he doesn’t spend his budget buying the latest Moooi pendant to hang above the dining room table, he clearly cares about his space, a fact evidenced by his following statements (which I have paraphrased):

I don’t think I like the seating area’s wood paneling.

I like it very much and tell him so. Make a comeback, it will.

Do you like these chandeliers?  A building’s being torn down, and the boss man called me to see what I wanted.

As I don’t love brass, I say I’d paint or lacquer them.  But also, the boss man called him?  Apparently, Malave is the Catholic priest equivalent of Architectural Artifacts founder and salvage guru Stuart Grannen, one of the only other people I know lucky enough to field these sorts of calls.  We can only pray their paths don’t cross.

I’ll just put this into storage with the other furniture.

And how does one score an invitation to see this furniture storage room? I have a feeling that unlike my cluttered basement, St. Bart’s storage room is pretty awesome, and they probably don’t know what they have, making it easy to score a great deal, uh . . . for them . . . for the church coffers.

You need white marble?  I think I have some big slabs somewhere.

I’m waiting.

  • 3779057492_6a73f881871
  • I’d like to replace these avocado green kitchen appliances.

    I won’t share my rather strong opinion(s) about avocado green appliances, as I’m working on a very special post about this important topic.  But I’ll give you a hint.  I love them!  I also like the cabinets’ clean lines and the stainless steel back splash.  (But the table has to go).

    What do you think of the furniture arrangement?

    “I don’t like it so much,” I confess (he is a priest after all).  That’s my first big mistake.  Suggesting a more suitable layout is my second.

    Continued . . .


    I seriously love this piece.

    Because in what feels like seconds, I realize I’ve been put to work, adjusting the main seating area to symmetrically frame the fireplace, carrying unnecessary bookshelves to the next room, repositioning the desk and dragging a deceptively heavy chair across the room to create a cozy reading nook by the window.  Moving furniture is an Open House first (and lest future stars get any ideas, a Strange Closets last), but Father Jason is, after all, Father Jason (clergy) and while I’m not Catholic, I do respect my elders (smack!).  And I AM a design-o-phile, so I can’t help but feel guilty denying my friend a more comfortable, more visually appealing room layout.  Plus rearranging other people’s rooms is good times.

    As I admire my work enough for the both of us, an older man wanders in to ask if Father Jason will walk to the post office with him.  As it turns out, the man’s a retired priest, and he tells me that Malave invited him to live at the rectory.  This strikes me as possibly the greatest fringe benefit of priesthood.  For priests, the odds are good that they’ll be cared for as they grow older, that they’ll have companions and comfortable places to live.  I don’t even want to know what the odds for the rest of us are, but I’ll wager they’re not as good.  While each of three priests who live at the rectory has his own quarters, they dine together and support one another as family do.


    Much has been written about the church’s systematic problems and about the dangers of organized religion generally, but the vast majority of priests and church-goers are quietly helping people, trying to make a difference in their communities.  Spending time at St. Bartholomew’s helped me to frame the politics and the sacrifice in the larger context of the service, and it prompted me to consider whether for all its faults, it’s the institution, the structure, which offers the support individuals need to do the work that needs to be done.

    Because unlike many people who work so much and hear so many problems, my friend Father Jason Malave seems somehow both softer and brighter now than he seemed when we first met ten years ago; he seems kinder, more patient and paradoxically less burned out.  Perhaps the role insulates him somehow, the larger structure nurtures.  Or maybe practice makes perfect; perhaps spending the past 12 years being kind, patient, loving and helpful has worn away his protective layer, leaving him more vulnerable but more accessible, more open.  Or maybe he was just happy I moved his furniture.

    As Malave finishes his tour and we wander outside, he points at a canoe-sized paver pile in the church’s unkempt side yard.  Laying them to create a new brick patio is one of the many projects on Malave’s to do list, and he shakes his head as he wonders how he’ll round up some volunteers to help him finish the job.  With that I make a hasty exit, leaving Malave trying to figure out when he’ll have time to tackle the project.  In this, the priesthood mirrors life.

    Thanks Father Jason!

    Click here to read past Open House tours.



    These kind of walls, if made with a more aesthetically pleasing material, would be a good way to enhance a home's versatility, would they not?


  • 3778235663_d634f52d8cThis is not religious kitsch.
  • 3779060892_a8bec5e2c7


    Quite an unusual way to hang artwork, is it not?


    The priest's common seating area.


    There was a huge desk crammed into this area before. Now, the corner makes an ideal reading nook.


    Post reconfiguration. Nice huh?


    Grace the mutt is a good doggie.




    I love this tile (much to Jason's surprise).


    It seems that even priests pile their reading material in the bathroom. I suggested an industrial steel bin for storage.



    The rectory


    Now that the building's are not quite so ubiquitous, I'm loving this architecture style.


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    12 Responses to “Open House: Father Jason’s Rectory”

    1. I love Father’s Jason’s apartment. I, too, love the avocado green appliances and the tile in the bathroom and the wood paneling.

      Being able to see behind the closed doors of the rectory is a special treat.

      Thanks Tate and Jason.

      Ms Janis

    2. Dear olive appliance lovers,
      I would be happy to offer the double-wide olive stove and double-decker olive built in ovens to the highest bidder. Along with an olive refrigerator that we have, which I will also offer to the highest bidder, you can have a complete set of olive appliances!

      Tate, seriously, beautiful job on the open house. I am happy to share the beauty of “my space for now”, and break down any mystique of Rectory living. I try hard to make it a good home and love sharing it with others. Really well done, thanks. Jason

    3. Jason, um, I mean Fr Jason, is the Ty Pennington of the Catholic Church. Having worked with him on a massive church interior renovation project when he just earned his collar, I can tell you he recognizes good design when he sees it, has a boundless supply of energy, can accomplish impossible tasks, and is always looking on the bright side. We went from one of those groovy late 1960s make-the-church-look-like-a-gym designs to something a little closer to heaven.

      The secret to Jason’s style is that he makes you realize the true beauty in an overly ornate carved dining room chair with a green (crushed?) velvety seat cushion (bless me Father, for I have sinned) is found in who is sitting on it.

    4. Pat Malave Lewis 21. Aug, 2009 at 3:53 pm

      Delightfully done…good job. Taking aging spaces and artfully and economically transforming them is something Jason has been part of since childhood. Designing on a dime has always intrigued his Mother (me) and translated to him as well.
      The love of Church was born in him. Interesting that the two work so well together. P.S. I always love to see my children in a wonderful light. You did a terrific job and LOVE the replacement of the monster desk.

      Pat Malave Lewis

    5. Good to see you are covering it all. Fast becoming one of my favorite blogs to read.

    6. Tate you are a genius. Never thought I would find the inside of a rectory interesting but you pulled it off. Very cool.

    7. Another priest, with a tastefully decorated home? hmm? Catholic from the cradle,

    8. I’ll never look at that kitchen the same way again! Great article.

    9. for some reason I thought it would be more “institutional”, completely wrong assumption, thanks for the eye opener. those dining room chairs are beautiful.

    10. Fr. Jason could easily have his own HGTV program, “freebies put to good use”. I have never meet a better man/priest, that is truly inspired by the Holy Spirit. Our Church has grown into a beautiful, peaceful place to worship. We are proud of his accomplishments and to everyone reading this, they too will find St. Bartholomew as warm and inviting as Fr. Jason.

    11. Fr. Jason has a great design sense and thrives to keep the integrity of the architecture while making good use of the space and elements that will be included within the space.

      I am not saying this just because I plan to go to confession soon.

      I personnally like the integrity of the bathroom tiles.

    12. Phoebe Sickal-DeSmet 13. Sep, 2015 at 12:57 pm

      Father Jason is a true man of God. The spirit is visible in all he does, in his very being. He let the Lord speak through him and the parishioners flocked to him. When he left St Bart’s, he was greatly missed.