Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of May 1, 2006
Priests' pension fund facing hard times
Administrators say retirement fund needs $2M more
By RAMON GONZALEZ
"Unless we top that fund up we are going to get in trouble down the road."
- Msgr. Jack Hamilton
"If you move to Villa Vianney you pay $1,200 for your housing and your meals and you have $300 left - $10 a day left to pay for everything else," he lamented. "Some priests, because of their financial circumstances, live either with their relatives in basement suites or with a priest's colleague who gives him room and board."
Msgr. Jack Hamilton, chair of the fund's board, said priests could get more but money is tight. "The pension is not as much as we would like it to be. We try to increase it every year but there is only so much we can do."
The pension is underfunded and needs a cash injection in the neighbourhood of $2 million so it can meet the demands it will face in the near future, Hamilton said.
"We have enough in our fund right now to meet our obligations but unless we top that fund up we are going to get in trouble down the road," he observed. "We have got a number of priests who have retired in the last few years and we have a few more coming up (for retirement) before too long."
Wroblewski, pastor of St. John the Evangelist and Holy Spirit parishes in Edmonton, said Catholics can help their priests retire with dignity by digging deeper when the collection plate comes their way on Sunday, May 7.
That's the day of the annual collection to support the St. Joseph's Priests' Retirement Fund. The collection usually brings in about $200,000. But this year fund officials are looking for more.
As well, a group of local laity are planning a $300-a-plate dinner for the fall to raise money for the fund. (See story below.)
Out of 77 diocesan priests in the archdiocese, 35 are receiving a full pension and 11 are receiving a partial pension of $500 a month. Only 32 are now contributing $750 a year each into the fund.
"I'm retiring because I'm tired and I'll make ends meet somehow."
- Fr. Clement Gauthier
"In a way I look forward to the time when I can retire and I can take things a little easier. But I'm not too sure just how eager I am to retire when I consider the financial situation. It's not that great," he said.
"Given the price of accommodations nowadays, which keep rising along with the cost of living, it is a very daunting kind of prospect for a fellow as he comes up for retirement unless he's got a very good investment portfolio to back him up. It is a very dicey kind of existence that he faces."
Part of the problem is that priests have never been paid well so it is difficult for them to save or invest much money, noted Hamilton.
Fortunately he has family that supports him and a little bit of money that he has been able to put aside. "But again it is not that much."
McCaffery said many retired priests continue to work on weekends long after retirement in order to be able to afford a better standard of living.
"All of the guys at the villa who are retired are working every weekend and some of them are working on the weekdays as well," he noted. "They use that added income for holidays, buying incidentals or playing golf."
Father Clement Gauthier, pastor of Assumption Parish in Edmonton, is looking forward to retirement in August after 42 years of service.
"I'll make ends meet if I live modestly," he said. He already lives in an apartment where he pays $1,000 a month for rent but he is not discouraged.
"So if I get $1,500 from the pension fund plus old age security and Canada Pension I'll have about $2,000 a month. It's not that bad," he said.
"It's not a question of money. I'm retiring because I'm tired and I'll make ends meet somehow. I can always earn some extra money if I help other priests on the weekends when they want a break. I knew it would be like this when I became a priest so I'm not complaining."
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