Father Michael Giglio slowed down from full time ministry after turning 75. While he is officially “retired,” he continues to serve. He and other priests in their golden years, continue to serve as long as they are physically able. For the past four years, Father Giglio has served at St. John the Baptist Parish in Dunnellon during the month of August, filling in for vacationing priests. But as they age, senior priests encounter many health struggles and other difficulties. Bishop John Noonan, the shepherd of the Diocese of Orlando, is committed to meeting their unique pastoral, physical and financial needs.
In 2013, Bishop Noonan established the Office of Services for Senior and International Priests to address the needs of retired priests. Manager Dan Hardester explained, “It is a ministry of presence. Simply to be available to the senior priests; to spend some time with them and then to work with any particular needs they may have. But it is primarily a ministry of friendship, which I dearly love.”
Together with the vicar for senior priests, Father Edward McCarthy, the office provides services to incardinated priests residing in the Diocese of Orlando who have reached retirement age and transitioned from full-time assignments. The office also holds the annual Priest Retirement and Care Collection, occurring on November 13. “It covers the extraordinary needs that a priest might have,” said Father McCarthy – the extra costs of surgery and rehabilitation for example.
“We want our priests to know that they will be taken care of,” said Father McCarthy. “All Catholics have a responsibility to take care of their shepherds. And that is the beauty of the collection. I get a genuine opportunity to be generous to the priesthood.”
More than 30 percent of incardinated priests in the Diocese of Orlando are retired, such as Father Giglio, who is 80.
Father Giglio came to the priesthood at the relatively late age of 55. He retired as an English teacher and went to Pope St. John XXIII National Seminary in Boston, MA, where older seminarians go to prepare for ordination. As a diocesan priest, Father Giglio was pastor of three parishes and assisted at several others. When he went into retirement, the Office of Services for Senior and International Priests did not exist. Recalling those first two years, Father Giglio commented, “The big difference is that Dan (Hardester) is involved and keeps in touch, which I find very good.”
Hardester keeps priests connected to the diocese and to other priests, and this is a fundamental part of the program. Staying connected can often be a difficult, but critical task. To help, the office provides an annual retreat. This year’s theme is, “Aging with Grace.” Featured speakers will cover the spiritual as well as physical aspects of aging at San Pedro Spiritual Development Center in Winter Park, November 29-30.
Father Giglio finds the transition to retired life can have challenges. “People are very supportive of priests, so when you leave parish life you lose some of that,” he noted. He considers himself blessed to have been asked to preside at marriages of the young adults from his Holy Family Parish youth group in Orlando and even baptized several of their children. It is a way to stay in touch. “The hardest part of transitioning to retirement was not living in a rectory, not being near a church,” he acknowledged. “In a rectory you just walk across the street.”
At this time, our diocese does not offer communal living for retired priests. This is something that the office of senior priests is trying to address. Father Giglio looks forward to his continued ministry, even if it is not full-time, and finds comfort in knowing that the people of the diocese are looking out for him.
Bishop John Noonan seeks to provide senior priests peace of mind as they age knowing that the Diocese will be there for them as any family would care for their loved ones as they age.
“I am grateful to our senior priests whose retirement is a blessing as they continue to serve the holy people of God. It is an honor to be able to offer them prayerful and pastoral support all the days of their lives. These priests have served with full heart and devotion for many years and continue to serve the Church in whatever way they are able,” said Bishop John Noonan.