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Retired priests get together

Twice yearly luncheons aim to build friendships, reduce isolation

Host Msgr. Jude O'Doherty, pastor of Epiphany Parish, passes out some hors d'oeuvres at the start of the luncheon. With him, from left: Father Hernando Villegas, Father Elvis Gonzalez and Father Jairo Tellez.

Photographer: ANA RODRIGUEZ-SOTO | FC

Host Msgr. Jude O'Doherty, pastor of Epiphany Parish, passes out some hors d'oeuvres at the start of the luncheon. With him, from left: Father Hernando Villegas, Father Elvis Gonzalez and Father Jairo Tellez.

Father Daniel Martin, right, ordained in May 2013, poses with Father John McLaughlin, who handles the ministry to retired priests.

Photographer: ANA RODRIGUEZ-SOTO | FC

Father Daniel Martin, right, ordained in May 2013, poses with Father John McLaughlin, who handles the ministry to retired priests.

SOUTH MIAMI | It was a get-together for veterans, with a few neophytes sprinkled among them.

About a dozen retired priests, along with two newly-ordained ones, gathered for lunch at Epiphany Parish Center Feb. 17 to get to know each other better. Msgr. Jude O’Doherty, pastor of Epiphany, served as host.

Archbishop Thomas Wenski also was present to show support and spend some time with the retired priests who are living in the archdiocese.

The luncheon takes place twice a year and is organized by the Ministry to Retired Priests headed by Father John McLaughlin, who is himself retired. He invited the newly-ordained figuring the camaraderie would be beneficial to both.

But the main point of the get-together is to let retired priests know that they are not alone.

Posing for a photo, from left: Father Joseph Fishwick, retired, Msgr. Jude O'Doherty, luncheon host and Epiphany pastor, and Father Paul Bolton, retired.

Photographer: ANA RODRIGUEZ-SOTO | FC

Posing for a photo, from left: Father Joseph Fishwick, retired, Msgr. Jude O'Doherty, luncheon host and Epiphany pastor, and Father Paul Bolton, retired.

“If there’s a priest visiting from Chicago and he hears about it, he can come,” Father McLaughlin said. “I don’t care where they’re from. If they’re living in the archdiocese, they’re welcome here.”

He estimated there are about 80 retired priests, both from the archdiocese and from other dioceses, living or spending part of the year in South Florida. But “there could be many more,” he said.

There is no way to know for sure since not all of them make their presence known. Those who wish to help out at parishes do have to obtain faculties — permission to function as priests — from the archbishop.

Archbishop Thomas Wenski poses with retired priests Father Jairo Tellez, left, and Father Hernando Villegas.

Photographer: ANA RODRIGUEZ-SOTO | FC

Archbishop Thomas Wenski poses with retired priests Father Jairo Tellez, left, and Father Hernando Villegas.

Others might be ailing and unable to minister in any capacity. But they, too, need to know that the archdiocese — and their brother priests — are concerned about them.

Those in good health might “need a golfing partner or a dinner partner. Because otherwise they’re ‘lone rangers,’” Father McLaughlin said.

A priest can have lay friends, said Father Jairo Tellez, 78, but it’s not the same as having priest friends because “their lives are different from ours.”

A native of Colombia who was ordained for the Archdiocese of San Antonio, Father Tellez served as an Army chaplain for 20 years. He camped out in the Iraqi desert with U.S. soldiers during the second Gulf War.

After he retired in 2003, he moved to Miami and worked a number of years as chaplain at Mercy Hospital. Now 78, he still helps out on weekends at St. Benedict Parish in Hialeah and St. Matthew in Hallandale.

“This is very good,” he said of the luncheons for retired priests. “I come, I make friends and I get to know the others. It is very good, and always very important to maintain that union among priests.”

NEXT EVENT
The next luncheon for retired priests will take place Wednesday, April 9 at noon at St. Andrew Parish, 9950 N.W. 29 St., Coral Springs. Any priest wishing to attend should call 954-568-9828 or e-mail padremcl@aol.com.
Retired priests also elect a representative from among their ranks to serve on the Presbyteral Council. Currently that is Father Patrick O’Neill, who still volunteers as director of the archdiocesan Office for Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations.

Father McLaughlin stressed that the retired priests should make Father O’Neill aware of any problems or issues they face that could be remedied by the archdiocese. Archbishop Wenski also stressed that retired priests who are getting too frail to live alone should seek assistance from the archdiocese.

Father O’Neill’s office number is 305-762-1254.

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