There was no set date for my retirement. No celebration. No intentional, “Now I begin a new stage of my life!” Perhaps it was my decision not to continue lecturing at St Francis College that led to my retirement. I think receiving my Pensioner Concession Card was the clincher. Nevertheless, I simply morphed into retirement and I’m loving it.
The last five years for me can be variously described as extraordinary, never dull, sometimes challenging, anxious, deeply sad and deliriously happy. What still amazes me is that when I first presented for ordained ministry, I felt called to serve elderly people. So I used to make weekly visits to Sinnamon Village Aged Care in Sinnamon Park. Now, some four decades later, I am ministering to residents of Springwood Yurana Aged Care Facility and my neighbours and friends of Yurana Independent Living. How blessed I am!
The great Italian actress Sophia Loren once said, “There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.” Retirement makes it possible for me to drink from this fountain. My idyllic life here at Yurana has enabled me to do what I believe I am called to do.
What have I been doing since “retirement”? Lots! My Permission to Officiate (PTO) licence within The Parish of Logan has enabled me to continue my priestly vocation.
I have mastered the use of PowerPoint presentations, which makes it easier for elderly people to sing hymns – ‘Shine Jesus Shine’ is a favourite – and to join in the responses and prayers. The sermons are interactive with residents sharing their pearls of wisdom. I am blessed to lead Anzac Day, Remembrance Day and Christmas services.
The liturgical Triduum services of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday are “done” in one sitting. It is such a privilege to share this journey with the residents, and to witness their emotional responses to the liturgy. Hearing their joyous and spontaneous “Alleluia” outbursts is quite humbling.
On a more one-to-one level, I take communion to some of the aged care residents. At the request of a family member, I visit their loved one and listen to and pray with them. I recall having to make one such visit during a “lockdown”. I had to wear full personal protective equipment. I can’t fully describe how restrictive and uncomfortable that was. Nor can I describe how truly blessed I felt to tend to someone in this uniquely personal way during this once-in-century event.
I also minister to residents of Independent Living. It’s important to note that the residents of Yurana and Independent Living also minister to me. For example, when I was unwell dealing with a cancer diagnosis, the residents visited me, prayed for me and gave me enormous strength.
We have an activity centre that enables us to have Anzac Day, Remembrance Day and Christmas services. In my unit we have Lenten and Bible Studies and a monthly Eucharist.
COVID-19 impacted how we all “do” Church, and so I also had to adapt. Because I live in a village where there are very elderly people onsite, during the thick of COVID-19 I needed to be really careful, so Church for me was about more personal prayer.
COVID-19 continues to impact us here at Yurana, so we’ve been limited in our group gatherings. The one positive thing about COVID-19, especially throughout the lockdowns, is that I didn’t have to refer to my calendar diary. It’s also one of the bonuses of being retired. It is quite liberating living a life that isn’t dictated by a diary entry. I can choose and decide what I add to my diary. Mind you, this means that I’ve missed remembering a couple of birthdays and anniversaries along the way.
So what do I do with all this free time that retirement offers? Lots! The most time-consuming, the most demanding, the most stressful, and yet the most fulfilling activity was co-authoring with my sister, Lynette, a 165,000-word book. The title is Holocaust In World Cinema: Jews Judaism God. The writing journey took seven years. It involved researching, learning about Judaism in books, and the viewing of around 350 Holocaust themed films. Our focus was on how Jews, Judaism and God are portrayed in the films. The book is completed and is awaiting appraisal from a publisher.
Motivational speaker and writer Lee M. Brower says that, “A thriving new beginning can be and should be a time for amazing engagement, growth, connections, contributions, and amazing possibilities.” I have certainly found this to be true of my retirement.
For clergy who may be apprehensive about retiring, let me say this. Remember: priesthood isn’t a job. It’s a vocation – a way of living and being there for others. Retirement offers freedom from “busy” diaries and many mandated obligations. Retirement also offers choices, decisions, and in discerning the degree in which we can and want to participate in our community.
Although, there does need to be some structure. For me this is beginning and ending each day “sitting” quietly with God. So far this has worked for me. I am where I am meant to be. My life continues to blossom. Thanks be to God!
Editor’s note: The Parishes and other Mission Agencies Commission is continuing to host events for clergy related to retirement, finances and superannuation. The following events are coming up in 2022:
Thursday 25 August 1-2.30 pm via Zoom: Exploring Clergy Retirement (Register online)
Wednesday 7 September 2-3.30 pm via Zoom: Superannuation (Register online)Jump to next article