February 21, 2014

Money to help retired priests is well spent, says priest who still ministers

Father Herman Lutz looks out of a parlor window at St. Paul Hermitage in Beech Grove in this Nov. 27, 2013, photo. The Hermitage is home to Father Lutz, who still ministers to the residents of the Hermitage and the Altenheim Community despite being retired. (Photo courtesy of the archdiocesan Office of Stewardship and Development)

Father Herman Lutz looks out of a parlor window at St. Paul Hermitage in Beech Grove in this Nov. 27, 2013, photo. The Hermitage is home to Father Lutz, who still ministers to the residents of the Hermitage and the Altenheim Community despite being retired. (Photo courtesy of the archdiocesan Office of Stewardship and Development)

By Natalie Hoefer

A year after graduating from Cathedral High School in Indianapolis in 1950, Herman Lutz knew that his job for an insurance company was not his life’s calling.

“I wanted my life to count for something. I wanted to do something with my life,” he says.

Thus began his call to the priesthood.

Father Lutz was ordained on Dec. 20, 1958, after graduating from the Pontifical North American College in Rome. For 45 years, he served throughout central and southern Indiana in various roles, including assistant pastor, pastor and 25 years on the Metropolitan Tribunal.

Father Lutz retired in 2003, and moved into the priest-designated apartments at St. Paul Hermitage in Beech Grove, a retirement home operated by the Sisters of St. Benedict of Our Lady of Grace Monastery.

But the priest has not considered retirement an excuse to stop serving.

“I love to minister,” he says. “I love to say Mass. I love to hear confessions. I love to do anything that has to do with the faith of the people.”

Father Lutz served as chaplain at the Hermitage for three years, and now celebrates Mass there three days a week.

On Sunday, when the current chaplain of the Hermitage celebrates Mass, Father Lutz goes to serve his “own little parish.”

“I say Mass at the Altenheim [Community] near the University of Indianapolis on Sundays,” he says. “It’s a normal retirement home, but there’s usually 40-50 Catholics at Mass.

“I’m there on Sundays, Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, holy days. Since they don’t need me [at the Hermitage on Sundays], I’m glad to go over there, sort of like having my own little parish,” says the retired priest.

When he’s not celebrating Mass, Father Lutz has plenty of other sacramental ministries he performs.

“We have confessions every Saturday, Benediction and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament on first Fridays, anointing of sick, Advent things, Lenten things, burial Masses, all the things you have at a parish,” he says.

While the discounted rent charged by the sisters helps, Father Lutz credits much of his ability to continue ministering to the funds provided by the United Catholic Appeal [UCA].

“I can certainly vouch that the money people give [to the UCA] to help retired priests is well spent,” he says.

“With my retirement pay, I’m able to have a comfortable life.

“And I really appreciate the health plan for priests from the archdiocese,” adds Father Lutz. “The policy of the archdiocese is that no priest should ever have to spend any of his own money for any kind of true medical cost. They pay for all of our medicine. There’s no co-pay, no deductible. We get health, vision, dental—any true medical expense, they pay for it.

“That’s quite a benefit. That takes a load off your mind,” the priest notes.

He speaks from experience. The health plan paid for with the help of UCA funds was of tremendous benefit to Father Lutz, who became gravely ill the year he turned 70.

“I got sick about 10 years ago while I was pastor at St. Mary’s [Parish] in North Vernon,” says the 81-year-old priest. “I loved it there, I loved the parish and the people. But I just got sicker and sicker, so I had to leave the parish and retire.”

The Sisters of St. Benedict of Our Lady of Grace Monastery had just finished readying one of the priest apartments at St. Paul’s Hermitage, and asked Father Lutz if he was interested in residing there.

Father Lutz says he was thrilled, as he had nowhere else to live and no family who had the means to take him in.

He needed not just a home, but also the care of the nurses who work at the Hermitage.

“I was so sick I couldn’t say Mass. I could barely move,” says Father Lutz, who never received a specific diagnosis for his illness.

Through many medical visits and trial medications over the course of a year, the doctors finally arrived upon a combination of medicines that improved the priest’s health and energy level.

With his health back and without the burden of paying for the medical expenses, Father Lutz was—and still is—able to continue ministering in the archdiocese.

“I haven’t lost my desire to serve or minister,” says Father Lutz. “I think it’s a gift from God that he did call me to minister, and I love doing it.

“So having this place, my retirement funds and my health care is really a blessing.”
 

(For more information about the United Catholic Appeal, log on to www.archindy.org/uca or call the Office of Stewardship and Development at 317-236-1425 or 800-382-9836, ext. 1425.)

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