From its inception, the diocese of London has been blessed by many men who have devoted their lives to the vocation of priestly service. Without them, the Catholic Church in Southwestern Ontario would not be as vibrant as it is today. Those who are called to priestly service touch all of our lives, the lives of our family members, neighbours, friends and all our communities. Our world has benefited from their commitment to what is good and holy, so that we can see beyond the limits of this intensely secular world.
A diocesan priest is called to serve the people of God. He fulfills the mission of the Church through liturgical and sacramental celebrations, teaching and preaching the Gospel, and upholding the faith of the Church.
This is a call for life. A priest takes on the roles of shepherd, administrator, counselor, teacher, and collaborator. The most vital role of the priest is spiritual and sacramental leadership. In his ministry, a priest promotes the spiritual, emotional and physical well-being of the people.
A priest can retire when he is 70, but many remain active assisting others. Today, as with past generations of senior priests, they continue to serve our diocese, parishes, and communities in a variety of ways.
We are truly fortunate. Since the establishment of the Diocese of London in 1856, we have been richly blessed with faithful and talented priests who have led our parish communities and nourished our people with the Word and the Sacraments. Our people know and love their priests and rely on them for the spiritual care they give them.
The St. John Evangelist Pension Fund Society, originally founded in 1877 for the benefit of “infirm and superannuated” priests, has evolved over the years. It now manages the priest pension plan, which supplies priests with a modest pension, health and dental benefits, and a spiritual retreat allowance. Funds are also set aside for religious order priests and for those priests who are not incardinated in our diocese to help them in retirement.
At present, the Pension Fund receives revenue from four sources: each priest contributes 5% of his salary; a matching 5% comes from the priest’s parish (or the diocese, if he works in a diocesan office); a contribution is made from diocesan operating revenues; a portion comes from investment income. Because of the weak economy, however, the recent growth of investments in the Pension Fund has slowed compared with the significant increases enjoyed in the 1990s and early 2000s. It is important, then, to seek other revenues in light of future retirement needs.
Many may not realize that our diocesan priests live independently in retirement. After active ministry, they no longer rely upon their parishes for support, nor is their room and board covered. Since they were paid a modest wage, they receive a minimal retirement benefit from the government.
The strength of the Pension Fund is critical not just for those who depend on it today, but also for those who will rely on it in the years ahead. The challenges that the Pension Fund will need to meet in the near future are increasing. Currently, there are nearly 60 retired priests in our diocese. The retirement rate is expected to peak in the next number of years. The good news is that most priests – while their health allows – will continue to serve the diocese, by taking weekend Masses in parishes and by filling in for priests who need time away for vacation or a health leave.
Unfortunately, the projected percentage of retired priests in relation to total priests is a cause for significant concern. As with other retirement benefit programs, the Pension Fund is challenged by increasing current and projected costs that may exceed its income. The reason is that, like the general population, priests are living longer which places a greater demand on retirement resources.
It is essential that we continue to provide financial stability for our retired priests and guarantee future security for our active priests. By strengthening the St. John Evangelist Pension Fund, we will ensure adequate retirement and health coverage in the years ahead for our priests who have served us so faithfully.
Sincerely in Christ,
Most Rev. Ronald P. Fabro, C.S.B.
Bishop of London
Why do we need this collection? Why doesn’t the diocese just take care of the priests?
Similar to the challenges that face most pension funds, there are a greater number of retired priests today who are living longer lives than was anticipated just a few decades ago. We now have nearly the same number of active priests as retired priests. The economy, the lingering effects of the financial markets meltdown as well as the fact that more priests are retiring than being ordained have also had a major impact. As a result, a special collection is necessary in order that sufficient funds are available to pay retired priests a modest pension, health and dental benefits, and a spiritual retreat allowance.
How do we know there is a need for a special collection?
Our calculations include a number of estimates – longevity, needs of priests, those who retire early, those who carry on after the usual retirement age of 70, health care costs, average investment income, and more. We have never had as much data and forecasting ability as we have today, and we look at our projections on an annual basis.
Is there currently a lack of sufficient funds because monies set aside for priests retirement benefits were used for other purposes in the past?
No, the amounts previously set aside and saved for the payment of priests’ retirement benefits have only been used to pay those benefits.
Don’t we already contribute to the priests’ retirement through another collection?
No, though each priest contributes 5% of his salary, which is matched by their parish or diocesan office. In addition, a large contribution is made from diocesan operating revenues. This collection is the first of its kind in our diocese to support retired diocesan priests.
How do I know if my contribution will really be used for priests’ retirement?
The St. John the Evangelist Pension Fund Society manages the priests’ pension fund on behalf of the Diocese of London. The Society is composed of several clergy and lay persons who establish funding plans and benefit levels. Contributions received from this collection will be deposited with the Society and used only for priests’ retirement benefits.
Do all priests, even those who are financially independent, receive retirement benefits?
Yes, in the same manner that any pension fund recognizes all members regardless of their financial status, the pension fund recognizes the contribution of all our priests. The number of financially independent priests is few, and these members are encouraged to contribute to the Society. Several of them have left money to the Society in their wills.
How come priests don’t do what most other people do and plan their own retirement?
Most priests do set a portion of their salary aside for their own retirement. However given the salary they receive, the amount that most priests are able to set aside in combination with any accrued earnings, is not sufficient to provide for their basic needs in retirement.
Where does a retired priest live?
During his retirement years, a priest has the option of either living in a parish rectory or in a private home or apartment. If a priest opts to live in a parish rectory, he is required to pay for the room and board he is provided.
What is the average age at which a priest retires from active ministry?
Most priests retire between the ages of 70 and 75. However, many continue to assist pastors in ministering to the spiritual needs of parishioners.
Isn’t the Catholic Church one of the richest institutions in the world? Why do we need to raise money for retired priests?
The Diocese of London is a non-profit organization, with the majority of assets comprised of churches and the land they stand on, some additional real estate, and the Pentecost 2000 endowment funds. We are rich in faith and in our temporal assets, but are cash poor.
Will there always be a need for an annual collection?
An annual collection at the parishes will still be needed for each priest who is not yet retired, so that when he reaches retirement, there will be sufficient funds to provide for him. In addition, since we will always be served by ordained priests, contributions will need to be made throughout each priest’s working life until he retires, and to ensure the pension fund will always be at an adequate level for the priests it needs to support.
Do other dioceses have similar special collections?
Yes. Many dioceses in Canada and around the world hold special collections to benefit retired priests. Others create an endowment as part of a special capital campaign.
How much of my contribution will be used up in expenses?
As little as possible. The only expenses will be the costs for the printing and distribution of brochures, envelopes and other materials.
Our parish priest belongs to a Religious order, or comes from another diocese. Do we still need to contribute?
Yes. We already supply funds for their retirement.
What happens if you raise too little or too much money?
We have realistic, yet conservative, expectations. If we raise more than our goals, it may be possible to provide the basis for an endowment or provide additional benefits to retired priests. If too little is raised, we would have to consider carefully how the ongoing support for the retired clergy of the Diocese would be met. Any changes would require a consultation process. There is, of course, no question of our not properly supporting our sick and retired priests. We will not see a priest become destitute.
Gifts of Cash
The easiest - and most popular - method of support. Cash gifts may be given to your parish. Cheques should be made payable to: Parish Name – Priest’s Pension Collection. You can also make a donation online through our Canada Helps account.
A charitable bequest is a distribution from your estate to a charitable organization through your Will. There are different kinds of bequests such as General Bequests, Specific Bequests, Residual Bequests and Contingency Bequests
Stocks and Securities
Donating Stocks, Bonds, Mutual Funds or GICs is easy to do and, in some ways, can be smarter than donating cash. For example: if you sell stock and donate the cash, there is a capital gains tax that must be paid (up to 46%). However, if you donate the stock, you get to claim the entire amount as a tax deduction, without paying any capital gains tax.
Donating a life insurance policy is another, though less common option. Depending on how it is structured, you can receive tax savings while you are still alive and making payments.