Make Christmas brighter for retired priests

Published: December 21, 2022

En Español

The annual Christmas collection is the primary source of income for the Clergy Welfare Fund, which supports senior (retired) and infirm priests of the Diocese of Little Rock. This special collection will be taken up during all Masses at Catholic parishes in Arkansas on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

According to Arkansas Catholic, this fund takes care of the needs of aging diocesan priests who no longer serve at a parish, as well as those who become ill and cannot perform their priestly duties. This includes providing living arrangements, meals, health care, transportation and end-of-life care. Read Arkansas Catholic to learn more about how the money is used.

While the diocese reserves funds for priests who are sick, 95 percent of the money is spent on our 17 senior priests. In 2021, $539,350.49 was collected at Christmas for this fund. 

"Most of our priests work well into their 70s and beyond, caring for the spiritual life and welfare of their people," Bishop Anthony B. Taylor wrote in a letter to be read at all Christmas Masses. "They have given us the gift of their hearts and their lives of service and dedication; let us give them the gift of assurance that their retirement days are spent with dignity and care."

Eight of these senior priests live at St. John Manor, which is in Fitzgerald Hall on the campus of St. John Catholic Center in Little Rock. Each has an apartment with a living room, bedroom and private bathroom. They eat their meals in a communal dining room and have a shared living room to watch TV, read and play a game of pool. Deacon Marc Rios, Fitzgerald Hall’s resident manager, told Arkansas Catholic in 2021 that life at the manor is not extravagant.

“A lot of these priests have nothing. As diocesan priests, they don't have their own furniture. When they move from parish to parish, it’s all provided for them. So, they don’t amass or accumulate a lot of physical property. Sometimes they just come here with just the clothes they have and a few items, so we're able to provide them a fully furnished apartment, someone to take care of their laundry, someone to feed them, someone to clean their apartments. And they’re very grateful," he said.

"I appeal to you to join me in supporting this special collection taken at all Christmas Masses," Bishop Taylor added. "Please continue to pray for an increase in vocations to the priesthood in our diocese, and for happy and healthy retirement for those who have served us so well throughout the years. Pray also for those priests in active ministry who deserve our support, encouragement and care."

For more information, contact Dianne Brady, director of the Stewardship and Development Office, at (501) 664-0340.