As a young priest, Father Mainardi led a busy life ministering to the faithful throughout the Midwest, along the eastern coast, and in the Diocese of Orlando since 1993. Here he served as director of the San Pedro Spiritual Development Center, administrator of St. Matthew Parish in Winter Haven, and as pastor of St. Charles Borromeo in Orlando, St. John the Baptist in Dunnellon, and Blessed Sacrament in Cocoa. He also served on several boards and councils.
Now retired, Father Mainardi’s pace is a bit slower. He celebrates Mass as needed but he cannot stand for long periods without support. He is sometimes too weak to stand and distribute the Blessed Sacrament.
“I am 77 years old and my health is not what it used to be, but I still help whenever I can,” said Father Mainardi, who retired in 2003. “One thing I can still do is pray. Every day I go to the chapel to pray for our parishioners. They tell me that it means a lot to them.”
Father Mainardi is among the more than 40 senior, incardinated priests in the diocese. Most of the men, now in their 70s and 80s, continue to serve the people of the diocese in parishes and in other capacities, as their health allows.
Bishop John Noonan and other leaders of the diocese are preparing for the growing needs of our local priests in their advanced age and have introduced an annual collection, the Priest Retirement and Care Collection. The first collection will take place in parishes throughout the diocese on Aug. 24.
“Our priests continue to be important in the life of the Diocese of Orlando,” said Bishop Noonan. “I am very proud of our retired priests, who have served our Lord and his people with full heart and devotion for many years, and who continue to serve the Church in whatever way they can.”
Bishop Noonan said Catholics are called to offer our senior priests a ministry of caring.
“We attend to their spiritual, pastoral, and human needs by providing opportunities for them to participate in priest gatherings, retreats, convocations, assist with their growing medical needs, and provide for their physical well being with appropriate housing,” said Bishop Noonan.
Father Ed McCarthy, Vicar for Senior Priests, said that there are many reasons for the new collection, the first of which is to raise awareness for these men who have given their lives to serve God’s people.
The funds are needed to assist with medical claims, prescription drugs, nursing home care, auto insurance, retirement residence subsidy, and pension benefits.
“This collection allows Bishop Noonan to safeguard the personal and professional dignity of our retired men,” Father McCarthy said. “It provides the resources appropriate and needed for them.”
Dan Hardester, manager of Services for Senior and International Priests, said as priests have taken lifelong vows, we are called to give our lifelong support.
“As Catholic Christians, the sacramental ministry of the priesthood is foundational to our understanding and our practice of Christianity,” Hardester said. “These priests have dedicated their lives to sacramental ministry among us, and as part of their priestly ministry. They have pledged themselves to be family among the people of the Diocese of Orlando.
“They pledged obedience to Bishop Noonan, and they have taken all of us as family,” he continued, “and just as we take care of the needs of the seniors and elderly in our own families, in our wider family of church, these are our senior and older members and we are called to take care of them.”
Earlier this year, Bishop Noonan created the Office of Services for Senior and International Priests to address the growing needs and concerns of senior priests in the Diocese of Orlando. The office also serves as a resource for the enculturation of foreign-born and extern priests. Overseeing the office is Very Reverend Edward McCarthy, Vicar for Senior Priests, and Dan Hardester, Manager of Services for Senior and International Priests.
Editor’s note: This Priest Retirement and Care collection will benefit the retired priests of the Diocese of Orlando and is not to be confused with the Annual National Campaign for Retired Religious (nuns, priests and brothers).