A priest will normally retire from full-time parish ministry when he reaches 75 years of age. However, almost a third continue to work in some form of ministry after they officially retire. There are several retired priests who provide supply cover for other clergy, visit homes or offer other pastoral services to the Diocese.
When a priest resigns from his parish ministry or full-time ecclesiastical appointment and plans to live independently, the Diocesan Finance Office establishes his likely income and needs. Because every priest’s situation is different, these are carefully assessed on an individual basis. Thanks to independent means or the support of his family, a priest may not need any financial help, whilst many will need at least some level of assistance. Whatever his situation, the Diocese will ensure he has sufficient financial resources to afford the necessities of life, live in properly heated and adequately maintained accommodation and can pay for some recreation and travel.
Life in a presbytery is very busy and usually quite demanding, particularly these days when an increasing number of parishes are run by a single priest. Being constantly available to respond to the diverse needs of his parishioners over many years can be extremely fulfilling, but can also take its toll. Some priests unexpectedly have to retire early for medical reasons. In general, a presbytery is therefore not a suitable place for a priest to spend his retirement.
Depending on the resources available at the time he resigns from parish ministry or a full-time ecclesiastical appointment, the Diocese will provide or purchase a property for the priest to occupy in an area appropriate to his needs within the Diocese. It will provide basic furniture and equipment and cover the costs of internal and external maintenance. The priest is expected to meet all the running costs associated with the property, including utility bills and Council Tax. In time, sheltered accommodation may become more suitable and a contribution to residential or nursing home facilities can be provided for within a financial arrangement agreed with the Diocese, again in accordance with the priest’s own means.
In the case of illness
When a priest becomes ill or needs an operation he can access the Diocese’s occupational health care scheme for priests. This was introduced because the Diocese has a duty of care towards its clergy and wants to ensure its priests are supported in a consistent way. Prior to its introduction provision was varied, as each priest made his own arrangements for health care. The scheme enables operations or treatment to be scheduled for a time which minimises disruption to his parish or other work. This is all the more important when fewer priests are available for parish work than in the past. Since many retired priests continue to actively undertake duties on behalf of the diocese the healthcare scheme continues to be open to them after the age of 75 years.
The Changing Situation
By 2018 the estimated number of priests in our Diocese who will retire from full-time ministry will increase from 70 to 93. Thanks to advances in healthcare and in common with general trends in our population, they can look forward to a longer retirement than their predecessors. However, this also means that the Diocese will need to support them for longer than in the past