Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

As we celebrate the 175th Anniversary of the Archdiocese, we look back… on July 22, 1960 when ground was broken for St. Philip Church, East Windsor.
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senior priest oct slider web 3A few of the Archdiocese of Hartford's senior priests gather in the entryway to the Archdiocesan Center at St. Thomas Seminary in Bloomfield. The term senior is used because according to canon law, a priest never retires. From left in each row, starting in front, are: Father Arthur Dupont and Father Anthony J. Bruno; second row, Father Timothy Meehan and Father James Pilon; third row, Father Nicholas Cesaro, Father Edmund Nadolny and Father George Laliberte; fourth row, Father Salvatore Rosa and Father Roland LaPlante; and back row Father Leonard Kvedas and Father Joseph Pettit. (Photo by Aaron JosephWhile many people hope and save for a retirement of carefree living, the reality is that the majority choose to continue working in some form for years.

It’s no different for the Archdiocese of Hartford’s senior priests, many of whom, once freed from their administrative duties, are more than happy to return to the role they took on decades before: priestly ministry.

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“There was a time when few people enjoyed much retirement because life expectancy was relatively short compared to today,” Archbishop Leonard P. Blair said. “Now that people live longer, many enjoy long years of retirement, and so do priests, with this exception — a priest only retires from an assigned administrative responsibility; he never retires from the priesthood.

“His spiritual ministry as a priest continues in his senior years to the extent that his health and circumstances permit,” the archbishop explained. “We depend very heavily on our senior priests to assist in parishes when a parish priest is away on retreat or vacation or is ill. Even with the reduction in the number of parishes, there are still full Mass schedules to be celebrated and our senior priests are very much needed.”

Still, once they are no longer responsible for parishes, senior priests say they embrace the opportunity to minister to a parish without boundaries, according to Archbishop Blair.

“Relieved of the burden of administering a parish, retirees often say that they feel like the priest they were ordained to be — pastors of souls.”

Some senior priests live in parish rectories and share many of the responsibilities of parish life. Some live at the Archbishop Daniel A. Cronin Residence at St. Thomas Seminary in Bloomfield and travel to wherever they are needed.

Depending on their abilities, senior priests also celebrate Mass and anoint the sick at adult day centers, assisted living facilities and nursing homes. They celebrate Mass and hear confessions at Catholic schools, an abbey and monasteries. They serve as hospital chaplains, lead retreats and minister to Spanish-speaking Catholics. Some are also active with the Knights of Columbus and Knights of Malta, serving as chaplains for pilgrimages to Lourdes, among numerous other contributions.

“I don’t know what the archdiocese would do without them, so important is the role they fulfill,” Archbishop Blair stressed.

 “And remember, bishops (and now even popes) retire, too.”

Father Robert B. Vargo, vicar for clergy and a former pastor, also values the senior priests.

Father Vargo says he has known and witnessed “the wonderful presence, example and ministry that our senior priests offer to their brother priests and to the faithful whom they serve. The wisdom, and often humor, which they bring to their ministry is rewarding and refreshing,” he said. “The example which they offer us all — of a lifetime dedicated to God and Church — is beyond value.

“May God continue to bless our senior priests,” Father Vargo said, “with holiness, health and every happiness.”

alertAt the Spring Assembly of the U.S. bishops, Cardinal Joseph Tobin suggested that a delegation ofbishops go to the border to see for themselves what was happening to newly arrived immigrants, families and children. On July 1 and 2, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. bishops conference, and five other bishops conducted a pastoral visit to the diocese of Brownsville, Texas. Stops included Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle with the community, a visit to anHHS/OBR Shelter and Mass for the families there, a visit to the Customs and Border Patrol processing center in McAllen, TX, and a press conference at the end of their visit. Catholic News Service accompanied the bishops on their border trip. 

  1. Backgrounder and analysis of the bishops’ trip to the border: Cardinal DiNardo told CNS, “You cannot look at immigration as an abstraction when you meet” the people behind the issue.
  2. At final press conference, Cardinal Daniel Dinardo said the church was willing to be part of any conversation to find humane solutions because even a policy of detaining families together in facilities caused “concern.”
  3. Bishops serve soup to immigrant families at a center run by Catholic Charities and listen to their stories. Scranton Bishop Joseph Bambera said he found hope in hearing the people in the room talk about what’s ahead. They didn’t speak of making money but of finding safety for their children, he said, driven by “the most basic instinct to protect your family.”
  4. At an opening Mass he Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle-National Shrine near McAllen, Texas, Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville told Massgoers, “The bishops are visiting here so they can stop and look and talk to people and understand, especially the suffering of many who are amongst us,”

A delegation of U.S. bishops goes on a fact-finding mission at the U.S.-Mexican border to learn more about Central American immigration detention.

Following their visit to an immigrant detention center, U.S. bishops said they are even more determined to call on Congress for comprehensive immigration reform.