Retired Priests Continue to Minister

Retirement living can mean many things, but to priests who have retired, it seldom means sitting in the rocking chair on a porch someplace.

Many of our retired priests continue to minister in parishes, celebrating liturgies for the living and the dead, visiting the sick or homebound.

Doesn’t sound like much of a retirement, but they are a mainstay of our diocesan clergy. Some continue to pastor parishes even after they have reached retirement age.

According to diocesan statistics, 61 diocesan priests have reached retirement age with 38 retired and 23 remaining in active ministry.

Father Richard Mohr, now 75, and looking forward to celebrating his 50th anniversary as a priest in 2017, is sacramental minister at Holy Spirit in Carterville.

“It’s a real joy,” he said of his ministry now. “I’m doing what I was ordained to do” without the administrative duties that being a pastor require.”

Father Mohr has not had an easy retirement, caring for his housekeeper as she suffered and died with cancer only to find out three months later that he would face treatment for pancreatic cancer. Looking at his new life after cancer, he said he now appreciates so many things, especially small things, like a smile or a sunrise or sunset.

Sister Carol Karnitsky sscm, parish life coordinator at Holy Spirit, said she appreciates Father Mohr’s ministry.
“He has such depth” in his understanding and presentation of Scripture, she said.

Msgr. Joseph Lawler has retired to Gallatin County and lives on “the home place” where his family lived and farmed.
Rooted in southern Illinois, Msgr. Lawler says he smiles when he goes into the new St. Kateri Tekakwitha Church to celebrate Mass in Ridgway. The beautiful church was built after a devastating tornado destroyed St. Joseph Church.

Msgr. Lawler helps at a number of parishes in the area. At 81, he continues his ministry, visiting the sick but sometimes saying “no” to calls in the middle of the night.

“I said ‘yes’ for 50 years, day and night, so sometimes now, I can decline. I am enjoying retirement,” he said.
This Sept. 17-18, for the first time, the diocese is taking up a collection for retired diocesan priests, Msgr. John McEvilly, Vicar General, said.

“This is not a collection for Hincke-Sense Home, not for priests’ pensions but for priests who may need to go to an assisted-living facility or a nursing home,” Msgr. McEvilly said.

The diocese does not have a fund to pay for nursing home care, and “if five priests were in nursing homes, it would cost about $410,000 per year,” diocesan chief financial officer, Michael Gibbons said. “The money will go into a restricted fund,” Gibbons added.

“Given the number who have reached retirement age, we really have to be serious about this,” Msgr. McEvilly said.

For more information about the Retired Priests collection, please see Retired Priests Collection