When Priests and Religious Retire

Last week there was an extra collection in our parish for retired priests and religious. The end of the year brings many of us, lay and clergy alike, to reflect upon our life, count our blessings, and see where we are headed in the future. Most readers of America are at the age where they either are thinking about retirement or are retired. The further we are from retirement age, the longer it looks like we lay persons may be working, nearing age 70 as some now project of the new Social Security legislation (still five years fewer than the average priest priests). In the Boston Globe this week, there was an article suggesting that planning for retirement involves more than financial planning. Here are a few ideas from columnis Scott Burns:

A big part of preparation is learning that your retirement isn’t just about investments. With both Social Security and a pension, in fact, your modest IRA/401(k) assets may provide only a small supplement to your other income. As a rough rule of thumb, you can think about taking 4 percent from your financial assets every year.

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The rest is about learning to adapt, to feel free and to enjoy the new flexibility you will have. Everything I’ve seen and read suggests that decisions about how you live, where you live, and what you choose to do are more powerful than decisions you make about money and investments. Basically, investment decisions are a side show. They are an important side show, but they are not the main event. Focus away from money, and you’ll have more ways to deal with the financial side of retirement.

One of my favorite books in this genre is “Get a Life: You Don’t Need a Million to Retire Well’’ by Ralph Warner. The book introduces you to people of modest means who are retired, happy, and don’t worry about money. Another is “Rags to Retirement’’ by Gail Liberman and Alan Lavine. This book takes you through more stories about people who have retired on surprisingly little. “Retire on Less Than You Think’’ by Fred Brock is more systematic and discusses simplifying your life, where you might live, investing your assets and dealing with health insurance.

I'd like to extend this discussion: how do diocesan priests and members of religious orders prepare for retirement? How much of the concern is monetary and how much is "other things" which the Globe suggests we take into account? Since many of America's readers come from those who serve the Church in a consecrated manner, what is it like for them to be nearing retirement? How is it different for a diocesan priest versus a priest, brother, or sister who is a member of a religious order? Bishop Matthew Clark offered some thoughts to a convocation of priests in 2000 that are pertinent to our discussion:

It is clearly the will of the church that priests retire, i.e. step down from administration and remove themselves from the assignment process. Having reached retirement age, it is up to these priests alone to decide how they will use their remaining days on earth for the glory of God. If they choose to remain active in our parishes, they will bless us by their ministry. If they choose not, they still serve God’s glory.

No matter how difficult our pastoral situation might become in the future, we cannot in conscience press these men into further service. It would rob them of their dignity and enslave them without purpose. They have earned their time of rest and it cannot be taken from them.

This is why I have insisted all along that no planning group include these men when planning parish coverage or formulating mass schedules for the future. Whatever these men do for us is grace and gift to be welcomed with gratitude but cannot be factored into a plan.

I am interested in hearing anyone's thoughts on this topic. Perhaps Bishop Clark's thoughts are relevant to religious orders of women and men as well. Is it possible there are women and men among us, faithful servants of the church, who now need our support--and not just financial support? Something to think about this Christmas?

William Van Ornum

 

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we vnornm
6 years 12 months ago
Dear Joe,

Some diocesan priests ending up "in the poorhouse"? Some sisters being made to work while the pastor is retired?

One reason I wanted to write this was to learn more about this topic. If there are indeed situations like you specify here, I hope good people who are aware of them wll do something to rectify them.

I hope this is not a situation the Church is "in denial" about.

Thanks for writing. bill
Stephen Murray
6 years 12 months ago
If I remember correctly, the bishops opted out of the Social Security System for religious (without their advice or consent) a long time ago and the predicted crisis is well in progress.
6 years 12 months ago
Given the many variables within and between dioceses and religious orders in retirement planning and the shortage of priests it behooves the laity to give generously to the annual collection and to also learn more about the needs of the retired and what resources can be tapped to help meet them.  Creative solutions are needed as well as money.  My parish  has come up with an arrangement that helps two retired missionaries and eases the priest shortage.  These missionaries happily live in our parish's residence and help out with Masses, Penance Rites, etc.  An all-around good solution for them and the parish.

Another good resource for retired priests (including those with disabilities) is to serve as chaplain on cruises.  I think most cruise lines accommodate their Catholic passengers by providing a Catholic chaplain on all their cruises.  The priest serves the people on board and enjoys a free cruise with all its amenities.   Not a permanent solution but one that brings enjoyment and satisfaction.

Bottom line, don't we who gained so much from the sacrifices of our clergy and religious have a moral duty to help them in their needs?
Crystal Watson
6 years 12 months ago
"I assume that apart from family, they're not ordinarily on personal-friendship terms with members of their parishes."

David,  why do you assume this?

When reading  a past article by sister Sandra Schneiders, who teaches at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, I saw something I hadn't realized - that the church doesn't contribute financially to religious orders.  I assume that means no retirement plans either?  (http://www.uscatholic.org/church/2009/11/sisters-mercy-arent-mcdonalds)

we vnornm
6 years 12 months ago
Dear Murtheol:

Do you have more info on the SSI?

bvo
we vnornm
6 years 12 months ago
Crystal,

Thanks for the link by Sister Schneiders-it is provocative and brings up the issue of finances of sisters's orders vis-a-vis the Vatican "visitations" currently in progress. bill
6 years 11 months ago
Bill, the examples I gave are actually pretty homely.  Cruises can accommodate a limited number of priests and not all parishes can afford to accommodate
missionaries.  But, I was hoping in giving these examples that others would come up with some creative ways to help our retired clergy and religious.  More than writing the check.  Remembering that these dedicated people have other needs such as for companionship, stimulation and meaningfulness.......

Last night, the huge disparity  in resources of different orders was made very clear to me.  A friend in Minnesota told me she has put her name on a list for a retirement/ continuum of care facility that is being built by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondolet and a Presbyterian group for 66 million dollars on property adjacent to their college (my alma mater) which they own.  Compare this to the poor "Fruitcake Friars" of an order in California and their huge debt.  I wonder why the difference.  Maybe the good sistes need to share their financial acumen!  They have been wonderful stewards of their resources and they started out a hundred years ago with almost nothing. 

Merry Christmas to you!
Janice
Crystal Watson
6 years 11 months ago
David,

I'm not sure you're off the mark.  I was just struck by the idea, I guess.  I've had   friendly aquaintenceships  (is that a word?) with priests but I can see the point that they might have more in common with "others of their kind"  :)
we vnornm
6 years 11 months ago
Hi Janice,

The two examples you gave are a start and I, too, hope others can think of creative things to do when they come across a situation calling for this. Those Sisters you write about do seem to have discovered ways of tapping into rich sources of funding. Merry Christmas! bill
Joe Mcmahon
6 years 12 months ago
When the topic of priestly and religious retirement arises, we have to allow for  variation in circumstances.  The diocesan priest who never kept anything for himself may end up "in the poorhouse."  In a sense, laity and diocesan priests must prepare for their own retirement by saving in addition to giving.  Congregations of Sisters and teaching Brothers which taught in contract schools (that is, parish schools and diocesan high schools) generally have less to fall back on.  Provinces of religious who  taught chiefly in their own schools, that is, owned property, generally have more resources saved for later health and welfare.  In some instances, pastors refuse to maintain  convents if the nuns are not actively working in the school; yet a priest might  reside retired in the parish.  Among religious communities, the management procedures on finances, housing, and medical care also vary tremendously, even from province to province in one order. 
we vnornm
6 years 12 months ago
David,

Again, you are asking questions I'd like to have answered, too. The Boston Glober writer used the phrase "side show," I think, to suggest that too much writing in general is going on about investments, not that the issue wasn't important for each of us.

For most of us, I think, the financial challenge can be daunting, and the article suggests that other challeneges need to be addressed, and that these are serious and worthy of much preparation also.

Is the financial challenge as daunting for retired religious? I suspect for many it is a serious problem. And I suspect that loneliness and lack of activities-companionship could be daunting.  bill

So perhaps this is someting that needs to be addressed more.
ed gleason
6 years 12 months ago
Retirement concerns about money as you say. are too often over emphasized.  I Meet monthly with a group  retirees from the Bell system and  the biggest regrets are from those who moved away to retirements venues.. away from friends, family, community. as they age they travel back 'home' less. inner cities and living  in-close small towns gives them better access.. stimulating city 'action' becomes more important as we age.
Forget Golf  .. 'you are not going to get better or beat anybody important'. volunteering is the best shot at fulfillment both spiritually and physically.
we vnornm
6 years 12 months ago
Ed,

Thanks for giving back to others. bill
CHARLES FAHEY MSGR
6 years 12 months ago
We at the former Fordham University's Third Age Center Center did considerable work about and with "growing old" in the religious and diocesan priestly life. Each state has its particular opportunities and challenges just as each individual lay or religious has his or her own issues. Religious have a distinct gift of living  (generally) in community and many, if not most, continue in some sort of ministry, albeit diminished.I am unaware of any societal institution within which folks can and do grow old more gracefully. Religious have the special challenge, finances since many ministered in low or non paying situations, e.g. stipends in elementary and secondary education. Thank God for the TriConference activities and the annual nationwide collection for retired religious.
We (notice the"we") diocesan priests have related but different challenges. We are on our own financially. . . no vow of poverty. Each diocese is different both in regard to salaries, benefits andpre and post  retirement programs and even age of "normal retirement"; bottom line some dioceses  are generous (and just), others are very modest (?) with most being in between though shading toward "modest." The priest shortage and priests living alone can exacerbate problems. Most priest want to continue to minister as long as possible but on their own terms . . . no administration, please! Sorry, space prohibits a full exposition.
we vnornm
6 years 11 months ago
Thank You David,

I wasn't aware of all of Monsignor Fahey's work over the last four decades. His website i a good resoirce for anyone concerned about aging. best, bill
we vnornm
6 years 12 months ago
Dear Father Fahey:

Thank you for the information about the scholarship done at Fordham. If you want to post any lengthy information up here send it along to me ([email protected]) and I will post it up as I think it is very important for this to be known by everyone in the Church.

Perhaps I am reading too much into  what you are saying when you say "modest," but I am suspecting that more could be done to provide a fuller, more satisfying, and secure life for those consecrated (this term would include both diocesan priests and members of religious orders, yes?) persons who have given their entire life to the Church.

Please send any other info yu care to as I and I think others would be helped by this.

Merry Christmas, bill
we vnornm
6 years 12 months ago
Janice,

Thanks for the noting those two examples-helping out at the parish and on cruises. With the high expense of food and lodging, staying at a parish is a significant benefit.

Merry Christmas, bill

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