Christmas is a time for joy, a time for celebration, and a time for family. Many of us are running around, “hustling and bustling” through crowds, preparing for Mass, for our feasts, for the sharing of gifts, and to make this Christmas special and memorable for those that we care about so much. Sometimes we focus on the people in our lives that help us throughout the year like our neighbors, our boss, co-workers, mail carriers, our children’s teachers, coaches, and our parish priests. However, what about our retired parish priests? When was the last time we thought about them? To most of our retired priests, the members of the Catholic Church are their family and they turn to us for friendship, advice, camaraderie, and social interactions.
In 2001, through the desire of several donors, the Catholic Foundation created the Retired Priest Appreciation Fund. The fund offers a way for us to give back to our retired priests who have served us so faithfully. Our priests are our builders, our teachers, our counselors, and our friends; they exemplify Christ’s love for all. Our priests are with us every step of the way—celebrating the birth of a child, burying our deceased loved ones, celebrating the Sacrament of Marriage, and blessing our homes. They offer their lives without expectation of financial gain beyond that which they need to sustain themselves. It is only right they should be given the opportunity to live out their final years in peaceful retirement and not be forgotten, especially at Christmastime.
Currently, there are 12 retired diocesan priests. Some of whom are living with family, in El Paso or back home in the Philippines, Spain, Mexico, or elsewhere in the United States, and some of our retired priests live at Casitas San Mateo, a retirement living community here in El Paso. Fr. Richard Waiwood, just celebrated his 90th birthday with his family in Ohio.
Several of our retired priests continue serving long after they reach retirement age and it is important to care for them, as they have cared for each of us. A gift to the Retired Priest Appreciation Fund will help retired diocesan priests, who currently receive an average of $1,600 a month in retirement benefits from the Diocese of El Paso, with assistance to supplement their benefits.
So, as we are finalizing our to-do lists, decking our halls, and perfecting our recipes, let us not forget these wonderful men who were called by God to serve us and our families over the years. May God bless each and every one of them this Christmas!