KANSAS CITY, Kan. — The word “retirement” to many people might conjure thoughts of a day on the beach or hours on the golf course, but those idyllic images aren’t so likely to come to mind when many priests think of retiring.
While a diocesan priest who is 70 or older might decide to turn over active leadership of a parish or ministry to someone else, if he’s able, he’ll likely continue to celebrate Masses at parishes, preside at weddings, celebrate funeral Masses and serve in a variety of other capacities.
A priest in retirement often carries out many of the tasks so familiar to him from a lifetime of service, but there are also situations unique to retired priests.
There are currently more than 20 priests who are retired in the archdiocese. A recently created quarterly gathering invites them to come together for lunch and a couple of hours with Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann.
The priests catch up on life, eat and talk about issues important specifically to them.
These gatherings have been taking place for about the past year.
Last November, a group gathered for the quarterly luncheon at Savior Pastoral Center in Kansas City, Kansas.
“Part of this quarterly gathering is just for their own camaraderie and fraternity,” said Father Brian Schieber, pastor of St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Leawood and archdiocesan vicar general for clergy. “It’s an opportunity for them to be with the archbishop.”
At this meeting, discussions ranged over a variety of topics.
One issue that was discussed — and tends to generate a lot of interest and queries from the retired priests — is a potential facility where retired priests would be able to live together.
The idea of a facility in the archdiocese has support — from retired priests and from leadership — but is still in the discussion and research phases.
Another issue raised was the possibility of contracting with a home health nurse to look in on retired priests. Because the Sisters, Servants of Mary serve in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles in this capacity, the archdiocese is now investigating working with the order on something similar here.
Just as most lay Americans are living longer and healthier in retirement, so, too, are the priests, which offers both opportunities for them to continue their ministry to the church, but also presents problems of care.
That’s why the chance to hear the concerns of the retired priests firsthand is so appreciated.
The meetings have raised his own awareness, said Father Schieber, of the depth and breadth of planning that will be needed if the archdiocese is to better serve its retired priests.
The next meeting of retired priests is scheduled for Feb. 17.