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Retired yet active

What does that mean?

"What do you mean, you’re retired? I thought priests never retired.” Thus begins many conversations I’ve had over the past couple of years. And then there’s the little line that’s appeared at the bottom of The Last Word that indicates I’m living in DeWitt in “active retirement.”

Well, active it truly is! But “retirement?” What does that mean? It means I am relieved of the business of running a parish. No council and committee meetings, no dealing with contractors and others who “do business” with any parish. I am free from my role as head of the Complaint Department of the Catholic Church.

Retirement, for me, means that I’m able, for the first time since I was ordained, to be fully a priest and devote myself to the things I was ordained to do. In the seminary we were not trained to be “arm-chair psychologists” or small corporation CEOs or personnel managers. We had to learn those things while on the job. Now I can be what the seminary prepared me to be.

I am now truly a diocesan priest, available to help in any parish of the Diocese of Lansing – and beyond. By “beyond” I mean really beyond. In the past six months, I’ve been a substitute pastor for one weekend in a parish on Chesapeake Bay and served a parish in Bakersfield, California. I’ve got the country bracketed!

At our beautiful St. Francis Retreat Center, I hear confessions, give retreats for individuals, and speak at Bethany House, our diocesan youth center.

And then there’s writing – I do a lot of writing – writing for FAITH magazine, writing Sunday homilies for CatholicWeb. com and I’ve even written a book. The latter endeavor has provided a lot of humility, working through the rejections I’ve received from publishing houses.

The big benefit of retirement (for me at least) is lots of time to discuss things with God. The quality of my prayer life has shot up since I’ve retired. I’m paying a lot more attention to what God has to say to me rather than presenting him with my shopping list of things he needs to do for me, or for others for whom I am a pro bono advocate.

No, I’m not retired from being a priest. In fact, I am now more of a priest. And so, my dear active-duty priests – you’ve got something to look forward to! See ya’ when you get here!