© Guardian photo by Heather Taweel
Rev. Eric Dunn, chancellor of the Diocese of Charlottetown, is thrilled with the Priests' Benevolent Fund surpassing $5 million in pledges. The money will help care for Catholic priests in their retirement on P.E.I.
Active Catholic priests have all their basic needs covered.
That all changes once they retire. Suddenly, a place to live, a way to get around, even groceries can no longer be taken for granted.
“It’s like falling off a cliff,’’ says Rev. Eric Dunn, chancellor of the Diocese of Charlottetown. “All these things have to be paid for by them.’’
Catholic priests in P.E.I. earn a modest annual salary of about $13,800 but also are provided a parish home and living expenses. The priests often have found themselves left struggling to make ends meet when they retire. They frequently are ill prepared to meet newly faced living expenses.
Now, a well-padded fund should make retirement much less of a worry for priests in the province.
The campaign for the Priests’ Benevolent Fund has surpassed $5 million in pledges. More than 2,100 families have made gifts and pledges to care for Catholic priests here in their retirement and support their individual parishes.
The $5 million includes a $1-million gift in direct support from St. Dunstan’s University board of governors.
Dunn is thrilled with the success of the campaign, but not terribly surprised.
“I think that you can never underestimate the love that people have for priests in their diocese and that was evident throughout the whole campaign,’’ he says.
“I wish to express my grateful appreciation and thanks to all the people who contributed or were associated with this campaign in any way.’’
The fund, which will receive the more than $5 million in committed donations over the next five years, should serve the desired purpose in perpetuity.
The bulk of the fund will go to provide for the Roman Catholic clergy of P.E.I. during their retirement.
That, said Dunn, provides tremendous relief to the 16 retired Catholic priests currently living on P.E.I., as well as the roughly 10 priests expected to retire in the next five to seven years.
“Right now I would say that all of the priests are delighted and feel quite secure in going forward to their retirement,’’ he says.
Earlier this year, The Guardian spoke with Rev. Joe Brazel, who retired near the end of January after serving 45 years as a priest in P.E.I. He was not properly prepared for retirement. At the time, he was living in a modest one-room motel in Summerside.
“It’s really a jolt to put it mildly,’’ he said of his new life as a retired priest.
“I feel cabin fever. You’re kind of in another world ... once you leave the parish, it’s lonely a bit.’’
Dunn says Brazel is now living “happily and comfortably’’ in a nice apartment in Summerside.
About $1 million of the funds raised, said Dunn, will be used to continue to nourish parish life across the province through everything from renovations to upgrades of cemeteries.