Caring for retired priests, lives that embody the essence of giving

June 12, 2018

Clergy Pastoral Outreach is the ministry of the Archdiocese responsible for ensuring the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of all retired diocesan clergy that reside within and outside the Archdiocese are met. Herald file photo.

HOUSTON — Each year as the number of clergy in the Catholic Church who reach the retirement age of 75 continues to increase, which is predicted to double over the next five to 10 years, primary importance is placed on the welfare of these men who have served God and His Church throughout their lifetime.

“We are thankful for our retired priests whose lives embody the essence of giving,” said Deacon Gary Hilbig, director of Clergy Pastoral Outreach of the Archdiocese, the ministry responsible for ensuring the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of all retired diocesan clergy that reside within and outside the Archdiocese are met. It is one of 60 ministries supported by the Diocesan Services Fund (DSF).

“From them we learn firsthand what it means to sacrifice, for they give their own lives as an offering to God, for our sake. From our Baptism, to our First Communion, to our final goodbyes, we entrust our souls into their hands; with great love and tender care, they accept,” said Deacon Hilbig.

Currently, 63 retired priests and 154 deacons and their wives are served by Clergy Pastoral Outreach. Along with the ministry offices and other lay residents, 36 of these retired priests either reside at the Archbishop Joseph A. Fiorenza Priest Retirement Residence at St. Dominic Village, an independent facility; St. Dominic Village Tower, an assisted living area; or St. Dominic Village Maloney Hall, the skilled nursing area.

Deacon Hilbig said it is important to support the DSF so these priests are cared for as they reach retirement age, especially with those numbers continuing to rise in the Archdiocese. He said because of the sacrifices they have willingly made, priests have limited personal resources and no spouses or children to provide for them as they age.

“With the passing of time, there comes a point when we as a Church must care for the priests who first cared for us,” Deacon Hilbig said. “In a spirit of love, we must care for our senior priests as we would care for our own families, for indeed they are family. Through DSF gifts, our Archdiocese can ensure that these faithful men receive a comfortable and dignified retirement, with modest housing, basic living expenses and access to medical care.”

Deacon Hilbig said Clergy Pastoral Outreach is focused on providing programs and services that help keep these men stay connected to the Archdiocese through special events, news and community resources. The ministry aspires to create an environment that helps cultivate relationships to ensure an optimal quality of life that is healthy, secure and hopeful for all retired clergy.

Included in the program are monthly birthday gatherings, special holiday meals and private receptions, as well as field trips to museum exhibits, churches and the Sacred Heart Society of Little York for lunch once a month. For retired priests and retired deacons and their wives who live outside of St. Dominic Village, home visits, lunch gatherings, and social service support also are offered to meet their specific needs.