Caring for those who have devoted their life to caring for others

By Clergy Support Foundation, 26 August 2023
(L-R) Retired Diocese of Parramatta priest Fr Arthur Cook, Diocesan Clergy Health and Wellbeing Coordinator Ellen Small and Diocesan Head of Clergy Health and Wellbeing Mark Buhagiar. Image: Diocese of Parramatta


When a priest retires from official duties, it’s important that we don’t forget them. As well as making sure their health and wellbeing are looked after, many need medical assistance and transport to activities that help them to maintain vital social connections.

The Diocese of Parramatta Clergy Support Foundation carries out this work on our behalf, making sure our retired priests receive individual, personalised care and continue to be an integral part of parish life.

In launching his Father’s Day Appeal in support of the Clergy Support Foundation, Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta, said, “Our priests never stop giving their lives in service to our community. We are called to make sure there is always someone to care for them, just as they will always care for us.”

Fr Arthur Cook has dedicated his life to the Catholic Church.

“I had the call when I was 10 or 12, and I put it off and put it off,” he said. “People used to say, ‘I’m going to test my vocation’. But I wasn’t testing it. I never doubted for a minute that the priesthood was my calling.”

Retired Diocese of Parramatta priest Fr Arthur Cook. Image: Diocese of Parramatta

Fr Arthur was solely supported by his father after he lost his mother when he was just 10 years old. When he shared his decision to become a priest, his father made many sacrifices to make sure his son could attend the seminary and answer God’s call.

In 2020, Fr Arthur celebrated 50 years as a priest, having served in many parishes including Blacktown—his first, Baulkham Hills, Castle Hill, Greystanes, Marayong, Riverstone, St Marys, Seven Hills, Upper Blue Mountains, and Windsor.

He retired in 2017 after eight years as Parish Priest at St Matthew’s Parish, Windsor, and takes great solace knowing the Clergy Support Foundation is there when he needs support.

“At 80 years of age, knowing the Clergy Support Foundation is there puts my mind at ease. One day, I know I’ll need much more care and support.”

Fr Arthur feels deep gratitude for the care already shown to him by the Diocese’s Head of Clergy Health and Wellbeing, Dr Mark Buhagiar.

“He’s been very helpful in all sorts of ways. He came up (to my home) and just inquired about my health, how I was going. He could have done that on the phone. But no, he came up personally. I’m very grateful for that.”

Retired Diocese of Parramatta priest Fr Arthur Cook (right) with Head of Clergy Health and Wellbeing, Mark Buhagiar. Image: Diocese of Parramatta

Mark is supported in his ministry by a registered nurse, Ellen Small, who provides advice, care, and support to all our clergy in the Diocese of Parramatta.

“It’s an honour to serve our priests – many who have helped nourish my faith and relationship with God. Having lived in the Diocese for most of my life, it is my humble privilege to return the care to these men, who have sacrificed so much for me,” said Ellen.

Mark and Ellen’s work encompasses everything from teaching healthy eating and lifestyle choices, transitioning to retirement, transport to medical appointments, hospital admissions, and helping with end-of-life care.

Without the Clergy Support Foundation, Mark says many of our retired priests would struggle.

“They’ve given their life to the Church, but if they had to step away from that and find their own place, about a third of them would not have the finances to support themselves,” Mark said.

Mark and Ellen are involved in all aspects of clergy life – beginning in the seminary, throughout their ministry, and in their retirement.

“We have two priests turning 90 this year, and we have cared for 20-year-olds to 100-year-olds and everything in between.”

Just as a priest’s work never truly ends, neither does our responsibility to show our appreciation for their guidance and ongoing presence in our lives.

Please support the Bishop’s Father’s Day appeal by calling (02) 8838 3482 or visit

Your generosity will help support the wellbeing and dignified retirement of our Parish Priests.


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