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How is retirement going?

Freedom from “paperwork” makes more “peoplework” possible

Not a week passes without several people asking me questions like, “How’s the retirement going? ... Is retirement all you hoped it would be? ... Are you enjoying your retirement? ...”  So the theme of this issue of FAITH, “Work and Leisure,” is ready-made for this Last Word.

When you have received the laying on of hands in Holy Orders, you are ordained a priest forever; and it would be the height of ingratitude to retire totally from priestly work as long as one is able to perform it. This applies in spades to bishops, who are said to possess “the fullness of the priesthood.” The great thing about priestly retirement is that it frees us from the administrative work of the ministry and enables us to devote more time to things pastoral.

I call this freedom from “paperwork” that makes more “peoplework” possible.

“Paperwork,” at the desk, in the office, in countless meetings; concerning finances, personnel, planning; overseeing education, charities, ministries – all of this is important and necessary, pastoral in its own way. I do not disparage it, but I do not miss it.

“Peoplework,” in the liturgy, in preaching, in teaching through the Catholic press, has been the great joy for me since my retirement in 1995. This is the pastoral work I would really miss if deprived of it.

Like all retired priests, I celebrate weekend and weekday Masses in parishes when called upon. In that capacity I have been in 39 of our 95 diocesan parishes. I have conducted days of recollection 10 times for parishes or for diocesan organizations, led four-day parish missions 17 times in six different dioceses, and given diocesan priests’ retreats in eight different dioceses.

The leisure that retirement affords has enabled me to spend more quality time for study, writing, reading and, above all for prayer. In the years when paperwork and peoplework were colliding all the time, personal and private prayer often got the short end of the day – a few hurried minutes the first thing in the morning or the last thing at night. Most active priests will attest to this.

I entered retirement in 1995 in the state of remission from cancer. After four years the cancer returned, and Jubilee Year 2000 saw a halt to most of my activities. But God puts his grace to work on us in time of illness, and I now feel poised for whatever further peoplework the Lord has in store for me. All praise and glory to Father, Son and Spirit!