Teaching Our Faith — Ministry of retired priests

For this final installment of teaching editorials about the various manifestations of priestly ministry, I am writing about the retired priest.

Canon 538.3 states: “When a pastor has completed his seventy-fifth year of age he is asked to submit his resignation from office to the diocesan bishop, who, after considering all the circumstances of person and place is to decide whether to accept or defer the resignation: the diocesan bishop taking into account the norm determined by the conference of bishops, is to provide for the suitable support and housing of the resigned pastor.” Here in the Archdiocese of Louisville the “retirement” age is seventy and in some dioceses, it is sixty-five. At that time, the priest is known as a retired priest or in some dioceses as a senior priest.

What does the term “retired priest” actually mean? Retired means that one has retired from active administration and, as I have said to many, I am now able to do what I was ordained to do without administration. I have been asked about the phrase, “once a priest always a priest,” and that is very true.

Here in this archdiocese there are all kinds of options for retired priests. They serve as senior associates, chaplains and directors. They help out on week days and weekends in parishes when needed. Some help out only in one parish, some help in a variety of parishes, and some, like me, serve as a sacramental moderator in a parish.  A retired priest also may choose to live in a
parish or to live independently of a parish, as I have chosen to do.

I am often asked about the difference between a pastor and a sacramental moderator. A canonical pastor has the total responsibility of the parish where the sacramental moderator only has responsibility for the sacramental aspect of parish life.  At St. Boniface Church, Deacon Brian Karley, a Resurrectionist, is the pastoral administrator of the parish, and I am the sacramental moderator. In addition to Deacon Brian Karley, St. Boniface is served by Deacon David Tomes. One of the deacons preaches on the third Sunday of each month.

At St. Boniface, I am the presider at the 8:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. Sunday Masses, at the 12:05 p.m. Mass on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and at some of the school Masses for Nativity Academy. I hear confessions on Sunday from 10:15 a.m. to 10:45 a.m. and on Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 11:50 a.m. Besides these duties, I visit the homebound and those in nursing homes and in the hospital. On some of these visits I take Holy Communion and, at times, am asked to hear confessions and administer the Sacrament of the Sick. I celebrate funerals and parish weddings if there is a Mass.

I feel very blessed to be able to work with the two deacons assigned to the parish. Deacons may preside at baptisms and weddings, take Viaticum to the dying, conduct prayer services at the funeral home and preside at the rite of burial. Deacons also do works of charity such as visiting the sick and those in prison, to name a few.

Besides my duties at St. Boniface, I am Defender of the Bond on the archdiocesan Metropolitan Tribunal, and I schedule the pilgrim priest prayer days. I also serve as a member of the Ministry to Priests committee and as the chaplain to the Priests’ Parent Club.

A very important part of my daily life is prayer and spiritual reading. I say the Divine Office and rosary daily and make frequent visits to the Blessed Sacrament and spend time in the presence of the Eucharistic Lord. I have a spiritual director and make frequent use of the Sacrament of Confession. These spiritual duties enhance my daily life and sacramental life.

I hope that now you see why I said that now I can do what I was ordained to do without administration.

As for my personal life, I enjoy spending time at the gym and working out, cooking, reading and spending time with my family. I love the arts and attend the Broadway Series and the Coffee Concerts of the Louisville Orchestra. I enjoy visiting the museums here in our city.

This first year of retirement has been full, and I look forward to many more years serving the people of St. Boniface and the archdiocese, if this is what God is asking of me.

Rev. Donald R. Goetz
Sacramental Moderator
St. Boniface Church

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