The Diocese of Buffalo will hold a special collection on Aug. 6 and 7 to benefit retired diocesan priests and provide for their needs as they age and costs of health care continue to rise.
Msgr. Paul Juenker, a retired diocesan priest who now lives at the O'Hara Residence in Tonawanda, spoke about the services the diocese provides to its retired clergy, which the priests' retirement fund would benefit.
Msgr. Juenker, who retired in 1995 in the year of his 75th birthday, said living in the O'Hara Residence is suitable for men in their 80s and 90s. It is not a nursing home, but a residence for priests who are capable of living independently, which the diocese verifies. The diocese sent Msgr. Juenker to live in Tonawanda after he had previously been at the Sheehan Residence in Buffalo with other retired priests.
"There were about seven or eight of us then," Msgr. Juenker recalled. "Bishop (Edward D.) Head sent me here because we were going to expand. Bishop (Henry J.) Mansell took over from there. This building was occupied by the Franciscan Fathers, who had been teachers at the high school."
Today, when the residence behind Cardinal O'Hara High School is at capacity, it houses 13 priests. It is a mixed house of about five men who can freely come and go. Those who are not in wheelchairs need transportation since they do not drive. The diocese also offers similar services at the Msgr. John J. Conniff Priest Retirement Home in Lancaster, which opened in 2010.
Life in the O'Hara Residence is a "melding of all different levels of priestly service" and a mixture of priests who served parishes throughout the diocese. Costs continuing to go up led to the idea of the retirement fund for priests. Msgr. Juenker said making a fund for retired priests had never previously been done, since the Retirement Fund for Religious, which many faithful erroneously believe goes toward the care of diocesan priests, benefits the diocese's order priests and sisters.
"In the winter, we preached for a retirement fund for religious - that's all," Msgr. Juenker added. "I think our people generally were used to having just the general collection for religious."
Msgr. Juenker said the diocese offers many opportunities for retired priests to mingle with one another. During the Memorial Day holiday, many of the priests were not in the house because they were visiting with their families.
However, Msgr. Juenker said, "It's a joy for this individual, this old geezer here, to live with priests who have had different pastimes and have enjoyed the priesthood and have served people, especially when we can get a table."
Msgr. Juenker recently spent a month in the hospital so when he came back he was happy to be in the residence. The diocese made sure he could care for himself.
"We are all self-care, and if there's any question about whether a retired priest can take care of himself, he is not here. He will not be accepted here," Msgr. Juenker said. "It was a plan we made back in the days when we began at Sheehan. When we began there, we moved from Delaware Avenue, a few retired priests, and we began this idea."
When Bishop John F. O'Hara ordained Msgr. Juenker in 1945, he sent the young priest to serve what was then the Irish community in Western New York at St. Brigid Parish in Buffalo. He also instructed in training young men who were interested in the priesthood at Diocesan Preparatory Seminary in Buffalo, where he stayed until he became pastor of Blessed Trinity Parish in Buffalo. Msgr. Juenker also served at Immaculate Conception Parish in Cassadaga, Blessed Sacrament Parish and St. Joseph Cathedral, both in Buffalo.
To make a contribution to help retired priests, consider donating to
the diocesan retirement fund during the second collection held in
diocesan parishes on Aug. 6 and 7. Contributions may also be mailed to
Diocese of Buffalo, Lockbox Dept. 294, P.O. Box 8000, Buffalo, NY 14240.