Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of May 3, 2004
Pension fund needs cash
Two thirds of priests collecting pensions, one third paying in
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
The archdiocese wants you to dig deeper when the collection plate comes your way on Good Shepherd Sunday, May 2. That's the day of the annual collection to support the St. Joseph's Priests' Retirement Fund.
"The need is urgent," says Archbishop Thomas Collins. "The priests have supported the Catholic people in their journey of faith and now the people have an opportunity to acknowledge and affirm their lifetime of priesthood."
The goal of the campaign is to fully fund the actuarial needs of the retirement fund. Last year the collection brought in $120,000. This year fund officials are hoping for $150,000.
Currently 83 priests are members of the fund. Twenty-seven of them pay into it an average of $750 each per year. Forty priests are currently receiving full pensions of $1,350 per month and 16 are on half pension. Active priests get a salary of $1,650 a month plus room and board and car allowance.
The retirement fund is under funded, says Father Joseph Wroblewski, a spokesperson for the priests' fund.
Eighteen out of the 27 priests currently contributing to the fund are over 65 and if they were to retire tomorrow, the retirement fund would not be able to support itself, he said. "It is under funded. When you have roughly two thirds on pension and one third supporting it, it is not going to work."
One reason some priests continue to work after the age of 65 is "they can't afford to retire," said Wroblewski. "When you are working in a parish, the parish provides you your house and it gives you a food allowance and a car allowance. When you retire, you lose all of that; all you have is your pension."
Collins and Wroblewski didn't know how much money is in the fund right now. Wayne Provencal, the fund's treasurer, was away last week and could not be reached for comment.
But Wroblewski said the fund needs a significant injection of cash to remain viable.
"Right now we are barely staying even, " he said. "For the fund to be fully funded we need another $2 million. When it is fully funded, we could live on the interest."
The fund's expenses right now are about $450,000 a year, he said.
"The cost of supporting our priests is increasing each year," Collins said. "As more priests retire and costs increase, the fund could be in a precarious situation. The need to do something is real and urgent."