Honoring the past to ‘live the present with passion’

December 23, 2014

HOUSTON — In a recent global message from Pope Francis when he declared this as the Year of Consecrated Life, the Holy Father said it's important to reflect on the origins and history of the Church, and to look to the past with gratitude for the gifts God has provided to the Church. He said grateful remembrance of the past leads us to implement ever more fully the essential aspects of our consecrated life and to "live the present with passion." 

"In a particular way we give thanks to God for these 50 years which followed the Second Vatican Council. The Council represented a ‘breath' of the Holy Spirit upon the whole Church. In consequence, consecrated life undertook a fruitful journey of renewal which, for all its lights and shadows, has been a time of grace, marked by the presence of the Spirit." (Pope Francis – Nov. 29, 2014)

The Year of Consecrated Life offers an opportunity to pray, raise awareness about and express gratitude for consecrated life in the Church. This includes honoring and caring for the priests and deacons who served during this time of renewal for the Church and are now retired.

The ministry responsible for this care within the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston is the Clergy Pastoral Outreach Ministry. The ministry was created in December 2006 by Daniel Cardinal DiNardo and is supported by the Diocesan Services Fund.

The Clergy Pastoral Outreach Ministry's mission is to promote the social teachings of Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church by addressing the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of all retired diocesan clergy residing within and outside the Archdiocese. It also strives to keep retired clergy informed and connected to Archdiocesan special events, news and community resources.

According to Gina Bibb, a staff member in the ministry, the office is ideally situated in the Pope John XXIII Priest Retirement Residence at St. Dominic Village, which provides for independent and assisted living, and nursing home care for clergy and lay residents. 

Currently, the ministry serves more than 60 priests and 150 deacons and their wives; however, with the aging population, these numbers are expected to double over the next five to 10 years. The retirement age for priests is 75 years old and for deacons, 70 years, although the majority of these clergy choose to remain involved in some aspect of ministry.

"The Catholics living in our Archdiocese love their priests, and I believe they like knowing their retired clergy have the support they need and are not forgotten by the Church," Bibb said. "Clergy Pastoral Outreach Ministry serves our priests as individuals may assist their elderly parents. Many of the faithful Catholics visit their former pastors and friends here."

The Clergy Pastoral Outreach Ministry programs include coordinating monthly Holy Hours, prayer groups and daily Mass for the retired priests at Pope John XXIII Retirement Residence and retired clergy living off campus. The staff hosts a monthly birthday party, movie day and an outing to the spaghetti luncheon at the Sacred Heart Society. They also coordinate special events, such as touring various churches and chapels, museum trips and the zoo.

"We also have groups come visit us, such as a homeschool group that puts on programs for All-Saints Day and other feast days," Bibb said. "The Serra Club, the Knights of Peter Claver Ladies Auxiliary and Knights of Columbus prepare holiday meals and Father's Day barbeques, respectively. We have an annual gathering with Cardinal DiNardo where he celebrates Mass, followed by a program with a meal, speakers and a question and answer session." 

For individuals requiring transportation, the ministry offers a disability van to get retired clergy to and from doctor's appointments and for errands such as the dry cleaners, haircuts, shopping, etc. Also, when priests have to be admitted to the hospital or go to the emergency room, a staff member accompanies them, and the staff visits the priest throughout their hospital stays.

"The priests greatly appreciate our ministry," Bibb said. "And, we in turn appreciate the support from the faithful of the Archdiocese to keep our ministry running. That is why supporting the Diocesan Services Fund is so critical."