October 28, 2016

United Catholic Appeal

Annual appeal supports retired archdiocesan priests

By Natalie Hoefer

In November, Catholics in central and southern Indiana donate to United Catholic Appeal: Christ Our Hope (UCA), which in part benefits the retirement of priests of the archdiocese.

Then just a month later, a second collection is taken for retired religious in December.

Why two collections for the same cause?

The Criterion spoke with Father Gerald Kirkhoff, archdiocesan vicar for advocacy for priests, about the difference between the two collections.

‘They’d never say they deserve it’

The difference between the two collections is easily summed up, he says: The funds from the UCA benefit priests of the archdiocese, whereas the December collection for retired religious, sponsored by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), benefits priests, brothers and sisters of religious orders.

“A lot of people don’t know that we have religious priests and diocesan priests,” Father Kirkhoff explains. “It doesn’t mean that the diocesan priests aren’t religious or pious. It just means that they are attached to and serve the diocese rather than [being attached to] a specific religious order.”

Of the 149 priests of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, there are currently 45 who are age 70 and above and therefore receive retirement funds. An additional six priests have been approved for early retirement for health or other reasons.

Just because a priest is of retirement age does not mean they are fully retired, notes Father Kirkhoff.

Twenty-eight of the 45 retired priests age 70 and older still serve in some capacity, including three who are still parish pastors.

Others take on other part-time roles in the archdiocese, such as Father Kirkhoff, who at age 73 serves not only in his vicar role but as director of the archdiocesan Mission Office and Society for the Propagation of the Faith.

He and the other 27 retired-but-still-active archdiocesan priests serve as substitute celebrants at parish Masses, hear confessions, and celebrate wedding and funeral Masses.

The retirement funds the priests receive, funded in part by UCA donations, go toward priests’ monthly living expenses, including housing.

“The diocese doesn’t really have an official facility for our retired priests,” Father Kirkhoff explains. “St. Paul Hermitage [in Beech Grove, a ministry of the Sisters of St. Benedict of Our Lady of Grace monastery] does make accommodations for retired priests, but most find housing on their own.”

Donating to the United Catholic Appeal is “a token of people’s appreciation of what they receive from the priests,” says Father Kirkhoff. “Priests would say [the funds are] helpful, but they’d never say they deserve it—some wouldn’t even think that,” says Father Kirkhoff.

‘I think of the teaching sisters’

The USCCB’s Retired Religious collection in December benefits all other religious—priests, sisters and brothers of religious orders—who serve in the archdiocese.

“It’s the most successful second collection,” says Father Kirkhoff.

In central and southern Indiana, there are 134 religious priests and brothers serving from nine orders, the majority being Benedictines, Conventual Franciscans, Dominicans, Jesuits and Order of Friars Minor (Franciscans).

Some serve as parish pastors. Others serve in schools, hospitals, on college campuses or as counselors.

The archdiocese also benefits from the service of 499 religious women representing 24 orders.

Some serve in hospitals, such as the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration. Others serve a specific population, such as the Little Sisters of the Poor serving the impoverished elderly at St. Augustine Home for the Aged in Indianapolis, or the Missionaries of Charity serving those in need on the east side of Indianapolis.

Catholics of central and southern Indiana are probably most familiar with the sisters who founded communities in the archdiocese and taught in parochial schools, says Father Kirkhoff, including Benedictines, Franciscans and Sisters of Providence.

“When I think of the Retired Religious collection, I think of the teaching sisters who for so long went underpaid and underappreciated,” he says. “They built the Catholic school system. … They did this for a pittance, and they live long lives.

“So in one sense, when a person contributes to the religious collection in December, it’s not just an act of charity—I think it’s an act of justice.”

(For more information on the United Catholic Appeal, log on to www.archindy.org/uca or call the Office of Stewardship and Development at 317-236-1415 or 800-382-9836, ext. 1415.)

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