Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
April 27, 2009
Recession hits Priest's Retirement Fund
May 4 annual parish collection allows parishioners to give generously to those who devoted their lives to the priesthood
Fr. Jozef Wroblewski
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
EDMONTON — On May 4, Catholics in the Edmonton Archdiocese will have an opportunity to say “thank you” to their priests. That’s when the annual parish collection to support the St. Joseph’s Priests’ Retirement Fund will be held throughout the archdiocese.
Organizers are hoping to raise $250,000 to $300,000 during the collection know as the Good Shepherd Campaign.
“The collection is an opportunity for people to say ‘thank you,’” says Father Jozef Wroblewski, the campaign coordinator and pastor of St. John the Evangelist Parish.
GIVE WHAT YOU CAN
“The collection doesn’t expect $1,000 from every Catholic in the archdiocese, just whatever they feel they would like to give.” Last year’s collection brought in a little more than $300,000.
While serving in Provost a few years ago, some children came to Wroblewski and gave him their piggy bank for the retirement fund.
“Of course I shook it and made a lot of noise, except there wasn’t that much in it because they were coins. But, you know, it brought tears to my eyes. It really did.”
A few years ago, the pension fund had more than $2 million in unfunded liability. That figure was brought down to a little more than $500,000 thanks to the parish collection and the 2006 gala dinner at the Rexall Centre, which brought in $520,000.
STOCK MARKET SLASH
But Wroblewski, 63, said the decline in the stock market wiped out the gains — $900,000 — and now the unfunded liability stands at $1.5 million.
“Because of the recent market fluctuations, volatility of the stock market, our stock portfolio has gone down in value,” he explained. “It has decreased slightly under nine per cent.”
Currently there is $9 million in the fund.
“If we had a million and a half more dollars roughly we would be fine; but we don’t have that,” Wroblewski lamented. “The fund should be fully funded so it can support all retired priests of the diocese.”
More than 40 priests currently draw from the retirement fund. While most are getting a full pension of $1,750 a month, some, those who are over 65 but are still active in ministry, get a partial pension of $500 a month from the fund on top of their pastor’s salary.
As well as their pension, retired priests get benefits from the Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Security.
“A lot of these guys when they were priests their salary was $600 a month and for even older ones it was $600 a year,” Wroblewski noted.
“CPP is based on what your salary was. So if you were earning $600 a month, you won’t get very much.”
Wroblewski stressed that retired priests are not doing as well as some people may think because once a priest retires, he is practically on his own.
While on active duty, a parish priest gets a salary plus room and board. When he retires he has to pay market rate for accommodation, which can be expensive.
“If you want to live in an apartment in the city, even a bachelor suite, it is going to cost you about $700 to $1,000 a month for your accommodation,” Wroblewski noted.
“You need your food and food is more and more expensive all the time. And you are going to need your car and your (car) insurance. I pay $1,000 a year for my car for insurance.”
SCRAMBLING FOR WORK
Instead of enjoying their golden years, some priests have to look for increased employment while on retirement, according to Wroblewski. They phone active colleagues to ask them if they can replace them during holidays.
“Can I take over your parish for you (while you are on holidays)?” they ask. “They get a $50 or $75 honorarium (for saying a Mass) and that helps out.”
Adds Wroblewski, “If you are retired, unless you have some savings of your own, the only way you are going to go on a trip is when you become chaplain on a cruise or chaplain on a pilgrimage.”
Retirement should be a time of rest for the priests, Wroblewski said. “Let them enjoy it.”