Msgr. John Pilkauskas said he and other retired priests of the Archdiocese of Toronto are blessed to be taken care of by The Shepherd’s Trust. Photo courtesy of The Shepherd’s Trust

Shepherd’s Trust a blessing for retired priests

By 
  • November 1, 2020

Though eight years into retirement, Msgr. John Pilkauskas still has plenty to give in service to the community, thanks, he says, in large part to the support provided by The Shepherd’s Trust.

St. Bernard’s Residence, a long-term care and respite facility for retired clergy, has been home for the priest for close to two years since he underwent abdominal surgery. Pilkauskas receives a monthly pension through Shepherd’s Trust which he says has put his mind at ease in the latter years of his life.

“I’m really blessed,” said Pilkauskas about the pension which is funded by the donations of parishioners and parishes to care for retired clergy. “I’m just grateful and whenever I see the people in the parishes, I always think of how (the funding comes from) them. They are the reason why I can live in some sort of security, peace and contentment.”

The Shepherd’s Trust was established in 1996 to formalize the provision of retirement benefits to diocesan priests in the Archdiocese of Toronto (previously there had been an informal program that took care of retired priests).

The trust was begun by lay people who recognized the needs of retired priests and established the trust in appreciation of what these priests have meant to their parishioners over the years. The trust offers a monthly allowance, health care and other assistance to these priests in their golden years, which is often beyond the recognized retirement age of 75.

Each year there is an annual collection, usually in November, to raise funds that are invested in a balanced master trust and overseen by a board of trustees.

At the age of “only 83” as he jokes, Pilkauskas continues to stay active by taking regular long walks and assists the head priest, Fr. Ian Riswick, at the residence, celebrating Masses a few times a month.

Prior to COVID-19 Pilkauskas was travelling to parishes across the Greater Toronto Area helping out at various churches at times when the head priest was called elsewhere, or just in want of another voice from the pulpit. In fine health since recovering from his operation, while he has not been able to travel to other parishes during the pandemic, he is happy for the opportunities to continue to do what he loves.

“I miss (leading a parish) very much,” said Pilkauskas, who is one of seven retired priests living at St. Bernard’s Residence. “We’re helping out here and that is very consoling. That’s one thing that gives us satisfaction in our older age now. It makes you feel like you’re still doing the thing you were ordained for.”

Pilkauskas served at six different parishes throughout his years before retiring, the most recent being St. Gregory the Great Parish in Oshawa where he served for five years. He retired to a residence in Uxbridge before moving to Toronto for respite care. In addition to attending daily Mass and Holy Hour, he’s also finding time to delve into theology books and continues to find new inspiration reading religious novels such as The Song of Bernadette and Joan of Arc.

With the world in peril, Pilkauskas’ believes that in all of this “God is trying to teach us something.” His prayer list stays full and his days occupied petitioning for the world and for those whose lives he has touched and whose lives continue to impact his.

“I’m learning a lot more and praying for others all the time,” said Pilkauskas. “I pray for all of the beautiful people that have been beneficiaries in my own life and have been so kind to me and blessed me in so many ways. I keep thinking of them all the time now and praying for them as well as for the world, when I see all these things that are happening.”

The jovial senior continues to get calls and emails from people he has known throughout his many years of ministry. He is thankful for Marisa Rogucki, co-ordinator of retired diocesan priest services at The Shepherd’s Trust and her team, who work tirelessly, he says, to make sure he and all the other retired priests are okay.

“She does a wonderful job,” he said. “I just keep thinking about how grateful I really am.”

There are many ways to give, including gifts of cash, bequests from your estate, a gift of securities or publicly traded stocks or through In Memorian cards.

For information on The Shepherd’s Trust, contact Rogucki at  the Catholic Pastoral Centre, (416) 934-3400 ext. 336. or e-mail retiredpriests@archtoronto.org.

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