The Shepherds’ Trust allows Msgr. Sam Bianco, in his first year of retirement from the priesthood, to comfortably continue his priestly devotion. Register file photo.

Shepherds’ Trust gives freedom and dignity

By 
  • November 2, 2014

Msgr. Sam Bianco — born as the Great Depression ended and his father went off to war, raised in the postwar boom, ordained in that first decade after the Second Vatican Council — had a 45-year career in ministry. 

But he never planned his career, and he certainly never planned his retirement. 

“One day you’re going full blast — you’re on a bus and it’s going. Then, all of a sudden, you’re off,” said Bianco, who is just in his first year of retirement. 

At the Shepherds’ Trust they understand that priests like Bianco aren’t thinking about retirement. They’re there to do the planning for priests. 

“People ask, did you plan your retirement? I say, Holy Joe! I was too busy working,” Bianco told The Catholic Register. “You’re working all the time. I don’t think I sat down to plan. I could have, but I never did. But I’m not displeased. It’s good doing this — to find work and I work.” 

Unlike most lay people who plan to retire at 65, or 67 for those born 1958 or later, priests generally reach retirement at 75. Even then, of course they’re still priests and most look for ways of continuing to minister while perhaps avoiding the burdens of administration. 

Bianco says Mass at various parishes around Toronto where and when he’s needed. When the priests at a parish have to attend a seminar or are struggling with a bad flu or need to preside at a funeral, Bianco steps in to offer daily Mass for the faithful regulars found in every parish. 

He also makes himself available for weekend duty, celebrating and preaching at Masses in various parishes. 

Then of course there’s what he calls his “volunteer work.” Fridays and some Saturday mornings he’s at The Mustard Seed on Queen Street with the Sisters of St. Joseph, encouraging and accompanying often lonely seniors who come for card games and lunch, sewing and other activities. 

He’s hoping to expand his volunteer work by visiting at one or two of the St. Vincent de Paul Society’s projects. He was once chaplain to the Toronto branch of St. Vincent de Paul. 

The volunteer work is on top of his regular visits with old friends from L’Arche homes for developmentally disabled adults. It’s a good life. 

But it’s a life that requires some support — support he receives from Shepherds’ Trust, the retirement fund for Toronto priests. 

Bianco collects Old Age Security and the Canada Pension Plan and he has some modest savings. But it’s about $28,000 a year from the Shepherds’ Trust that gives him the freedom and dignity of his purposeful, devoted priestly life in retirement. 

“That makes it possible,” Bianco said. “It’s very important for us.” 

Bianco is comfortably ensconced in his own apartment. It’s an adjustment from his days living in busy rectories, but he finds that apartment life pushes him to get out more and maintain contact with people. 

“My volunteer work is really important. That keeps me interested. I’m able to give something but also get something back from people,” he said. “That means a huge amount.” 

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