"We are always priests with all our soul and with all our heart. Being an ambassador of Christ... is a mission that penetrates our entire being," said Pope Francis, speaking about priesthood, while in a meeting with pastors and priests in Rome.
When a diocesan priest is ordained, he makes a lifelong commitment to serve the needs of the faithful in the Diocese of San Diego. In return, the diocese makes a commitment to the priest to provide for his basic well-being during his lifetime.
Between Masses, meetings, parish finances, weddings, funerals, hospital visits, confessions, and other appointments, the amount of work performed by priests each day can be quite substantial. While most citizens retire at age 65, priests typically retire a full 10 years later.
As any person ages, it is increasingly important to provide for their spiritual, material and medical needs. Priests have the same needs and concerns. Retirement costs, including insurance, healthcare, prescription drugs, skilled nursing care and housing have continued to escalate.
One of the programs that donors support with gifts to the Annual Catholic Appeal (ACA) is Assistance for Retired Priests. The fund allows retired priests to live in dignity, free of anxiety about their means of support. The diocese plays an important part in adding to priests’ sense of security.
Retired priests have a profound trust in the gratitude and generosity of the people of the diocese. There are currently two retired bishops, Bishop Robert H. Brom and Auxiliary Bishop Gilbert E. Chavez, and more than 60 retired priests in the Diocese of San Diego.
Msgr. Edward “Ned” Brockhaus is one of the diocese’s retired priests. He has ministered in the diocese for the last 55 years, and most recently served as pastor of Holy Family Parish. Currently, he works with retired priests to help keep them active and healthy.
“I help them to be involved in the parishes and also to plan different activities to keep them close to one another and enjoying life,” said Msgr. Brockhaus. “Sometimes we go to the ballgames or to the race track.”
There’s also an annual golf tournament in which many retired priests participate. A free dinner follows. Retired priests appreciate these social opportunities.
Some retired priests live alone in their own houses, condominiums, or apartments. Other priests who may need some extra assistance stay at Nazareth House, a retirement home adjacent to Mission San Diego de Alcala. Regardless of their residence, it’s important for them to get out and be active in the community.
One important and very spiritual gathering that the retired priests look forward to each year is the multi-day Convocation of Priests, usually held near Temecula. The convocation is an opportunity for priests of all ages to share in prayer, presentations, socializing and fraternity. With funds from the ACA, the diocese pays the cost for retired priests to attend.
In 1966, Msgr. Michael Gallagher was ordained in Ireland for the Diocese of San Diego. He is the former pastor of Our Lady of Grace in El Cajon, and he is recently retired. On June 12, he celebrated his 50th anniversary of ordination to the priesthood with a Mass at Our Lady of Grace.
“God has been very good to me, in taking care of me as a priest,” said Msgr. Gallagher. “His graces and His strength have enabled me to persevere in the vocation that He’s called me to. And I give thanks to God for that.”
Msgr. Gallagher appreciates the underwriting of his automobile insurance, covered with funds from the Annual Catholic Appeal. It allows him to be mobile, and to be with the people, as far away as Julian, California, for men’s and women’s retreats.
“When you are young, the first half of your life, you’re using all that ‘ego stuff’ to build something, to make [a] life, to be a ‘success’ in life,” said Msgr. Gallagher. “But the second half of your life is different; you have to surrender that ego. God will take it all away from you anyway, but He’ll give it back better.”