On May 2, I had the privilege of concelebrating the Eucharist with Archbishop Smith and my fellow Bishops from across Western Canada on the occasion of the Dedication of the Chapel and the Blessing of the new St. Joseph’s Seminary in Edmonton.
The rebuilding of St. Joseph’s Seminary and Newman Theological College was precipitated by the sale of the old property on Mark Messier Trail to the province of Alberta as part of the government’s plan to make way for a major traffic corridor in St. Alberta.
Although you can’t adequately quantify the graced history of an institution, it is significant to note that over the past 80 years, more than 525 men have been sent forth from St. Joseph’s Seminary to serve the Lord in the ordained ministry as priests. Many others, having received formation at St. Joseph’s, continue to serve the Church in other ministries.
The new St. Joseph’s continues the same mission today to form and send forth laborers who will sow the Word in the fields of the Lord in accordance with its motto: Exiit Qui Semininat (Lk. 8:50, “The Sower went out...”.
The beautiful prayer of blessing expresses much of the central teaching of the Church on the priesthood: “In your mysterious and merciful providence you established Christ as the one eternal high priest, whose unseen power always sustains your church through visible ministers.. When the preachers of the Gospel proclaim the word of salvation, your son reveals to all peoples the mystery of your love. When the voice of the priest is raised in prayer, Christ prays with us at your right hand in glory. When priests celebrate his sacred sacrifice at the altar, Christ again presents to you his own self-offering. When pastors feed and guide the flock entrusted to them, Christ shepherds and guides his Church.....
“... we pray: that those you have chosen to be messengers of the Gospel and ministers of the altar will learn through prayer the truths they must some day teach and will grasp with the conviction of faith the mysteries their lives must exemplify; that here they will grow accustomed to offering spiritual sacrifices and by celebrating the liturgy experience the saving power fo the sacraments; that their obedience will lead them to follow the Good Shepherd, so that as pastors of the Lord’s flock, they will be ready even to lay down their lives for their sheep...
As I looked around at the young men currently in formation, I also thought of and prayed for those 525 graduates, many of whom are now retired senior priests in our diocese.
For quite some time, the Diocese has been concerned about the lack of care for priests who cannot look after themselves either post-operatively or because they are experiencing health problems related to old age.
My predecessor, Bishop Paul, in speaking to the Clergy Benefit Society in 1996 said: ""We cannot delay any longer in providing space and proper care for the handicapped clergy of this diocese... ""
On May 2, 2007,1 established a committee to look for a long term solution for priests, who require continuing nursing care due to infirmity or age, wherein they can be cared for with dignity and compassion in a communal setting where the tradition of faith is celebrated and where the spiritual and emotional growth are fostered. Since that time a number of options have been investigated and studied with the help of clergy, business and professional health care consultants.
After prayerful discernment, we have decided to obtain exclusive use of 10 spaces within the proposed expansion of the Father Lacombe Care Centre (FLCC).
Aligned with the Province's new 'Aging in the Right Place' continuing Care Strategy, the FLCC project is a 160 space facility primarily focused on providing Supportive Living 3 and 4 levels of care, although a limited amount of Long Term Care will also be offered in the facility. At an estimated cost of $50-60 million, the facility will be divided into 10 pods of 16 spaces, of which the Diocese would take 10 spaces in one pod. The diocese is contributing to the proportionate cost of planning and will do the same with respect to the construction of the new facility.
From a care perspective the proposed facility fits well with the current requirements of the Diocese and its existing resources.
From a financial perspective, this project takes advantage of the economies of scale of a larger facility. Furthermore, by structuring the spaces as 'Private Pay"", the cost of the spaces to priests would be at the discretion of the Diocese, and excess places could be offered to third parties at market prices. The biggest financial advantage is that under the current Provincial funding model, care provided within the facility would be funded by Alberta Health and Wellness.
The capital contribution from the Diocese on 10 Priests rooms is $3,259, 145.
The time for making a serious commitment to caring for our post-operative and elderly clergy is long over-due. I have asked our priests to contribute $250,000 from their personal funds over the next two to three years to kick start this initiative. To that end I am personally pledging $20,000.
I have also asked some Catholic businessmen for their help and assistance.
To date our rather quiet campaign has raised 1.8 million. Examining the numbers, you can see that we still have some distance to go and I am asking for your help to reach our financial goal. We have been blessed with many wonderful Pastors over the years and I believe that our attempt to look after them in their senior years is an appropriate expression of our appreciation and gratitude.
If you agree, and can assist, I would ask that you forward your contribution to the Diocese of Calgary, Catholic Pastoral Centre, 120 17th Avenue, SW, T2S 2T2, and mark your contribution “Priests - FLCC”. Income tax receipts will be issued and all donations of whatever size are greatly appreciated. Thank you!
☩ Frederick Henry