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Posted August 3, 2004

Retirement Programs and Retired Priests

Taken from As One Who Serves

The elderly have a right to reverence, but so often all they ask for is the consideration not to be discarded. What they deserve is preference, and yet at times they are deprived of even equality. The care for the elderly is regarded by many as simply a burden rather than an opportunity. It is necessary in our day to labor for revision of attitudes toward and conceptions about the elderly. The true standard to gauge our culture is the extent to which reverence, compassion, justice is to be found in the daily lives of a whole people. Culture is the “style of living compatible with the grandeur of being human.”

The priest has, like all people, the right to grow old in wisdom and dignity. He can expect consideration and care befitting a community of faith, hope and love. It is in this spirit that many dioceses have initiated programs for retirement and pension plans. Such programs are to be rooted simultaneously in the needs of the people to be served and in respect for the person of the priest. Such programs need to be constantly questioned. Does the program imply in any way a diminishment of the priest as person or as priest? Does the retirement policy insinuate, as some present retirement programs do, in our culture, that with retirement and pension a priest should think in terms of a completely new life? Has adequate thought been given to the role of the retired priest in the life of the local Church and among his fellow priests? Do the arrangements made with the retired priest serve as witness to the community and to our culture of the fraternal love and respect that the elderly can expect?

In addition, and perhaps of greater importance, is that priests demonstrate a genuine personal interest and brotherly concern for priests in retirement. The realization by a retired priests that he and his ministry are still needed by the Church often means much more to him than any program which simply guarantees material security.

The experience of old age is also another opportunity for personal growth. It is part of the continuing process of insight into oneself as person and the on-going demands of servant leadership. Aging with wisdom in the Lord is the culmination of life and the epitome of personhood.