Retirement village a touch of the divine for priests

Features Fr James Lyons3 July 2012 Divine Cafe! It couldn’t be better named. Not just because the food is heavenly (and it is, with delicate homemade filo pastries and tasty…


Fr James Lyons
3 July 2012

Divine Cafe! It couldn’t be better named. Not just because the food is heavenly (and it is, with delicate homemade filo pastries and tasty shank pies, succulent soups and roasts, not to mention the desserts) but it comes as part of a retirement village that’s home to a number of priests from the archdiocese.

They say ‘divine’ is an apt description for the whole complex.
‘It’s not just the cafe that appeals,’ one of them assures me. ‘The whole place is so peaceful, friendly and very secure. I sometimes feel as if I’m actually in heaven!’

The Archdiocesan Clergy Trust has bought five units in the Aotea Summerset Village, north of Porirua, as part of a project to ensure adequate housing and care for priests whose age or failing health moves them into retirement from active pastoral responsibility.

There are currently 13 archdiocesan priests in full retirement. This number is set to rise dramatically within the next five years. This year there are six past the retirement age of 75 but still helping in parishes, while several more are close to retirement.

With support from their families, some of those retired are able to live in private accommodation, but the majority need help to maintain any form of independent living and certainly for on-going care.

The clergy supported the decision to buy units in a commercial retirement village because they felt that a retirement separated from people would be a difficult if not impossible adjustment after a life in a parish setting.

The priests at Summerset certainly endorse this decision. Apart from the security and personal care available, the 200 residents provide what is virtually a ‘mini parish’.
‘We’re never far from pastoral ministry,’ one proudly exclaimed. ‘We get all sorts of questions and most folk here have got fascinating personal stories.’

Sunday Mass is provided and there have also been enquiries from residents about becoming Catholic. ‘I’d like to have what you have,’ one resident said after admitting to an almost lifelong search for meaning.

Another of the retired priests said, ‘With people and their life stories around me I feel like I’m still in a parish’. But then he quipped, Retirement is special because there are no meetings, and I don’t have the worry of school preference certificates!’

The Clergy Trust is inviting financial support for the continuing care of priests when they can no longer participate in active parish ministry.

More units will be needed to meet demand in the next five years. Donations to assist adequate on-going care for clergy who have given their lives in the service of the gospel would seem to be an ideal way of saying ‘thank you’.