A holistic approach to caring for our clergy in retirement

2 September 2022
Head of Clergy Health and Wellbeing in the Diocese of Parramatta, Dr Mark Buhagiar (left), speaks with retired priest Fr Bob Sheridan OAM. Image: Diocese of Parramatta


The Diocese of Parramatta is committed to caring for its retired and ill priests, not just by providing a roof over their heads but by ensuring a holistic approach to their physical, spiritual, and pastoral wellbeing, through the Clergy Support Foundation.

The Head of Clergy Health and Wellbeing for the Diocese is Dr Mark Buhagiar. He is supported by Clergy Healthcare Coordinators Elizabeth Hanrahan and Ellen Small in attending to the needs of 21 retired priests across the Diocese, and those clergy in ill-health.

Mark said his team’s work is a concrete way of saying thank you to the retired priests for their lifetime of care and commitment to the people of the Diocese.

Head of Clergy Health and Wellbeing for the Diocese of Parramatta, Dr Mark Buhagiar. Image: Diocese of Parramatta

“Our priests have looked after us in parishes for their whole life, including the important moments such as Baptism, First Holy Communion, Confirmation, and Marriage,” he said.

“So, this is our opportunity, as Catholics and as parishioners, to show our gratitude and care for those who have cared for us, when they need us. This speaks very strongly to me and it’s why I love what I do.”

The Clergy Support Foundation’s work involves caring for retired priests’ healthcare and wellbeing, including their mental health. The team also cares for their practical needs like organising meals, taking them to appointments and ensuring their social networks are maintained.

Other ongoing assistance includes organising independent retirement living and aged care or nursing home accommodation.

Retired priest Fr Bob Sheridan OAM speaks with Head of Clergy Health and Wellbeing Mark Buhagiar. Image: Diocese of Parramatta

Mark said the care given to retired or ill priests is tailored to their personal needs and situation.

“No two priests are the same,” he said.

“So, you can’t take a standard approach to their retirement. We go out of our way to get to know family and next-of-kin so there’s shared support for each priest, rather than working in isolation.”

The team also provides assistance in attending to legal matters and Wills.

“From a legal perspective, we assist in getting all the paperwork, like an up-to-date Will, in order. We have conversations with the priests and, where possible, their enduring guardians, so we are informed when the time comes to make those critical health decisions,” Mark said.

“Thanks to the kind support of our community, we have the resources to make informed decisions and provide care in the way that our priests want, involving the people who need to be involved.”

Clergy Healthcare Coordinator Ellen Small (left) speaks with Monsignor John Boyle. Image: Diocese of Parramatta

Mark said the work of the Clergy Support Foundation is having a positive impact on the lives of retired and ill priests in a range of ways.

“There’s a priest who’s in a nursing home. I take him out every fortnight to visit a friend, have lunch, or go to a concert. He enjoys getting out and about.

“At the same time, we want to make sure that we’re enabling independence and not creating dependency.

“For example, we’ve just assisted a priest who was turning 85 to navigate the renewal of his driver licence, which involved driving lessons and passing the mandated practical driving test.”

Another big part of the Clergy Support Foundation’s work is making sure the Diocese’s retired priests stay involved in parish life, by celebrating Mass and stepping in for priests on leave, something which is critical for their wellbeing.

“Our priests have looked after us for their whole life and now it’s our turn, through the Clergy Support Foundation, to help care for them in their retirement,” Mark said.

The Clergy Support Foundation’s Father’s Day Appeal is an opportunity to support the priests who have been, and continue to be, such an integral part of the Parramatta Diocese family.

To donate to the Clergy Support Foundation’s Father’s Day Appeal, please call (02) 8838 3482 or visit parracatholic.org/fathersdayappealco


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