Aging in community: how elderly priests are cared for by their religious communities

Coat of arms of the U.S. Western Dominican province, Province of the Most Holy Name of Jesus (Photo: Wikimedia)

JANUARY 8, 2018 – Dominican Father Paul Duffner spends each day at the Rosary Center of Holy Rosary Parish in Portland, Oregon. At 102, he is one of the oldest friars in the Province of the Most Holy Name of Jesus. Yet, he enjoys spending his time working: he diligently prepares bundles of rosaries and pamphlets for distribution around the world.

The Western Dominican Province has 144 friars with an average age of 57. In the ten western states covered by the province, the Dominicans have 15 communities where friars staff parishes, Newman Centers, and other special projects.

Dominican Father Vincent Kelber, pastor of Holy Rosary Parish, says that their community stresses involved participation, adding that “We all want to retire sometimes from the harder obligations, but no one wants to stop working as a priest.”

The Congregation of the Missionaries of the Holy Spirit has also confronted the issue of aging and, with help from the National Religious Retirement Office, created a “philosophy of aging document” to govern the care of older priests and brothers.

Both the Missionaries of the Holy Spirit and the Dominicans stress the community focused aspects of their planning, and their desire to keep brothers involved and participating in daily activities.

For the fully story in the Catholic Sentinel (Archdiocese of Portland in Oregon), click here.