Enhancing clergy retirement by caring for physical, emotional and spiritual needs

November 14, 2023

Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, at right, greets Monsignor Michael Jamail, at left, and Father Francis Conroy, at center, after celebrating Mass with several retired diocesan priests at the Warren Chapel of St. Dominic Village on Oct. 25. Several retired priests joined Cardinal DiNardo to concelebrate the Mass. 

HOUSTON — The Catholic Church is committed to supporting and honoring those who have received Holy Orders, especially upon retirement age. For nearly 17 years, the Clergy Pastoral Outreach Ministry in the Archdiocese has been providing unwavering support and care to retired priests, deacons and their spouses.

“Our ministry promotes the social teachings of Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church by addressing the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of all retired Archdiocesan clergy residing within and outside the Archdiocese,” said John Descant, coordinator of the Clergy Pastoral Outreach Ministry.

Descant said the ministry’s staff and volunteers strive to maintain open lines of communication regarding special events, Archdiocesan news and community resources to keep retired clergy informed and connected with the Archdiocese. This includes personal visits, phone calls, mailings, group events and personal assistance to cultivate relationships with retired clergy to ensure an optimal quality of life that is healthy, secure and hopeful.

The Clergy Pastoral Outreach Ministry serves priests at age 75 and deacons at age 70. Currently, there are 40 retired priests and 110 retired deacons and their wives. Out of these, 29 retired priests either reside at the Archbishop Joseph A. Fiorenza Priest Retirement Residence at St. Dominic Village or St. Dominic Village Maloney Hall.

Being one of 64 ministries supported by the Diocesan Services Fund (DSF), the Clergy Pastoral Outreach Ministry heavily relies on the generous support of the faithful in the Archdiocese who contribute to the annual DSF appeal.

“We are funded by the DSF, and without the DSF, we wouldn’t be able to operate as we do,” Descant said. “We have retired clergy who depend on us for assistance in a myriad of ways, such as transportation to and from doctor appointments, attending social events like birthday parties and sharing information with the retired clergy. Of course, we have volunteers and deacons assigned to the ministry, but our services simply would not be available without funding from the DSF.”

In its ongoing mission to enhance the quality of life for retired clergy, Descant said the Clergy Pastoral Outreach Ministry is addressing a new need by replacing furniture, including beds and powered recliners with lift features, at the eight-year-old Archbishop Joseph A. Fiorenza Priest Retirement Residence.

“We encourage participation in the DSF each year,” Descant said. “It seems that if everyone participates, even just a little, the needs of the Archdiocese are met. This includes all the other ministries that are supported by the DSF.”

Father Eric Pitre, a two-year resident of the Archbishop Joseph A. Fiorenza Priest Retirement Residence, said he has directly benefited from the Clergy Pastoral Outreach Ministry because “it is a good place to live” for several reasons.

“There are a lot of things, including (receiving) both flu and COVID-19 vaccines, right here,” Father Pitre said. “We can get technical support when needed, like help with the printer. We also have extra eyes to watch out for us, and decent meals, available Sacraments and Mass held every day.”

He also believes it is important to give to the DSF that supports ministries like the Clergy Pastoral Outreach Ministry.

“We belong to something larger: the Archdiocesan Church,” Father Pitre said. “Participation in DSF allows the Clergy Pastoral Outreach Ministry, and others, to exist; it’s larger than just a parish. As a pastor, I always supported DSF.”

Staff member Ramon Parparcen is also thankful the DSF provides funding to support the Clergy Pastoral Outreach Ministry efforts to assist the priests and deacons in retirement, as well as his full-time position as the aide to the retired clergy and their driver for the past eight months.

“It is important to support the activities of the Church,” Parparcen said. “It supports the priests in the Priest Retirement Residence and nursing home.”

To learn more about the Clergy Pastoral Outreach Ministry, including volunteer opportunities, such as helping with activities or transportation, call the office at 713-440-3436 or visit www.archgh.org/clergyoutreach. To donate to the DSF, go to www.archgh.org/DSF.

The DSF supports each of these ministries, whether direct service or education, which require this critical funding to remain in operation. Out of each gift given to DSF, 100% of every dollar goes directly to supporting these ministries.