By John Monteiro
“O blessed retirement! friend of life’s decline –
Retreats from care, that never must be mine
How blest is he who crowns,
A youth of labour with an age of ease!
For age is opportunity no less
Than youth itself, though in another dress,
And as evening twilight fades away
The sky is filled with stars, invisible by day.
These odes to old age, from poets, are soothing to the aging. But, perhaps, they did not take into account the Catholic priests and nuns who turn their back to their families and go forth to carry the cross to follow Christ and advance his mission.
Bereft of support from family and their shifting flocks, retiring priests seem to see a dark tunnel ahead. It is a stark contrast from today’s parochial life where they have a fairly comfortable accommodation and two/four wheelers to move around to enhance their functional efficiency. All this becomes fond nostalgia once they retire, normally at 75 years of age. Today’s increasing longevity of life means another twenty+- years in life spent away from the thick and bustle of parish pastoral life.
It is here that Mangalore diocesan authorities have stepped in to ensure a worry-free, comfortable life to retired priests, the latest of which is a modern, functional residential complex, St. Juze Vaz Home, for retired priests of Mangalore diocese at Jeppu, scheduled for blessing and inauguration by Bishop Aloysius Paul D’Souza on February 27, 2017 at 10 AM, with concelebrated Mass.
The new Home is located on a plot, measuring 0.98.50 acres at St. Antony’s Charity Institute, Jeppu. It may be recalled that St. Antony’s complex already has a modern building designed to accommodate a dozen retired priests with a small chapel, dining room and visitors’ lobby. But, the diocese wanted to have one central facility, specially designed for the comfort and companionship of aging priests.
Most. Rev Dr Aloysius Paul Dsouza, Bishop of Mangalore
Before this facility for retired priests was established in1886, there has been home for the retired clergy functioning from 1884 in a cozy building at the right of the main entrance to Fr Muller Hospital complex at Kankanady. It goes by the name of Vianny Home. Even in the hospital, a special ward, named Fr. Frachetti Ward, was set aside for exclusive use of sick and recuperating old/retired priests. These facilities were meant for the old Mangalore diocese which included newly carved out Udupi diocese. Until 1956, Vianny Home was run as part of the hospital and Jesuit clergy managing the hospital also resided in this building. In the 1980s the old residence was renovated and made suitable to host 16 retired/old priests
Since then Fr. Mullers Institute has grown exponentially and it is not any more a quiet retirement place. Also, the number of retired/old priest exceeded the capacity of this facility. Accordingly, at the late Monsignor Fred V Pereira’s initiative a modern building, suitable for hosting 12 priests was established at St. Antony’s complex.
For the last few years, the idea of having one centralized facility for retired priest got crystallized and, accordingly, Bishop Aloysius blessed the foundation for a new complex on January 1, 2015. This building is designed by the Architect Saldanha & Associates and built by Contractors Marian Infrastructure having a reception desk, waiting/meeting lounge and an ample area to take indoor/outdoor walks. There is a chapel which is a power house for the priests presiding therein. There is a well spaced dining room with kitchen and store room. There is a library and reading rooms. There is also provision for medical care with in-house doctor and nurse. There is accommodation for care-givers and helpers in the basement – also parking space. Spread over two floors, there are a total of 34 rooms on single-occupancy basis (407 sq. ft. each). One floor accommodates the convent of care-taker nuns from the Missionary Sisters of Jesus congregation. There is also a hall for celebratory functions. There is provision for adding more rooms to meet expected increased demand.
The construction of this old-age-friendly building complex, with two lifts and all required amenities, was closely monitored and managed by Fr. William Menezes who functions as Diocesan Estate Manager and Public Relations Officer.
Fr. William Menezes, Project Coordinator
Time was when, until the middle of last century, the elite families of Mangalore sent their best sons to the priesthood. With the spread of education to rural areas, the best sons from the hinterland came to the forefront of priesthood. Most of them come from well-to-do families; but sacrificed the comforts of home in favour of priestly vocation. We have an obligation to ensure their comfortable retirement and, in this context, what the diocesan authorities are doing through this new, centralized facility is laudable.
Beyond physical facilities, the place visualizes people to go and meet the retirees and provide entertainment in the form of music and song. It takes very little to kindle the life of the isolated – craving for company. It is hoped that our diocesan laity will rise to the occasion