Fr. Alphonsus Bernard has officially retired but continues to minister at Toronto’s Blessed Trinity Parish. Photo courtesy Shepherd’s Trust

For 25 years, Shepherds’ Trust a ‘blessing’

By 
  • November 7, 2021

It was hard for even Fr. Alphonsus Bernard’s close associates to believe he had reached the age of retirement.

Looking and feeling many years younger than the passage of time would affirm, the former associate pastor at St. Marguerite D’Youville Parish in Brampton, Ont., turned 75 on June 11 and officially retired July 1.

Filled with the energy and strength to continue working he wasn’t sure how he would make ends meet after officially retiring. Immigrating to Canada from Sri Lanka in 2008, he had completed just over a third of the 30 years required for a full pension.

His first official appointment in Canada was in January 2009 when he started work as an associate pastor at St. Rose of Lima in Scarborough. Since then he served at various parishes throughout the Greater Toronto Area before landing at St. Marguerite D’Youville in 2014. Though retired he is currently serving at Blessed Trinity Parish in Toronto.

With a passion for building community and helping to foster in parishioners a relationship with the Holy Spirt, he credits the faithfulness of God and the generous support he has received through Shepherds’ Trust for enabling him to continue in the work of the Lord.

“I appreciate when the priests were appealing for contribution to the Shepherds’ Trust and I appreciate the people’s generosity,” said Bernard. “I appreciate the good service that Shepherds’ Trust is doing and I’m one of the beneficiaries. My friends and family were wondering how I was going to manage after my retirement, but I didn’t worry at all. I have come to learn so much from providence. I say whatever happens to me in the end will be in my best interest. Providence has shown me that trust.”

Jennifer Sardella took over as co-ordinator to the retired diocesan priests at the Archdiocese of Toronto in March after serving as assistant to the former co-ordinator since 2019. She says throughout COVID-19 her work has focused on two main areas of challenge — financial wellness and the health of retired priests.

Costs associated with retirement are on the rise and the Shepherds’ Trust plays a crucial role in assisting retirees to live in safe and comfortable environments during their senior years, says Sardella. As retired priests age, many begin to deal with the challenges that arise with declining health, both physically and cognitively. With the aid of the Shepherds’ Trust retired priests receive the support and services they need to meet these challenges in a compassionate and dignified manner.

“It has been a very rewarding role for me to assist the retired priests in what I believe is their most vulnerable years,” said Sardella. “This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Shepherds’ Trust. I am so thankful for the generosity given to the Shepherds’ Trust during the November collection as well as the donations we receive year-round. It is a wonderful blessing for me to see first-hand how these donations are making a positive impact on the quality of their lives.”

Bernard continues to carry the targets he has set for himself as a preacher and associate pastor into his senior years. He remains committed to making Mass an experience rather than a ritual or a Sunday obligation. He also continues to work to help parishioners to cultivate a sense of companionship and friendship with the Holy Spirit. He feels a passion for helping to foster a sense of community within the Church by creating opportunities for fellowship and meaningful interaction amongst parishioners.

Bernard’s strong sense of purpose and being called for a mission keeps him going every day. He says he has been given gifts and the opportunities throughout the years to develop and exercise those gifts and feels a great sense of thankfulness to God for that. It’s his hope that his work will continue for many years to come.

“I’m most grateful to God,” said Bernard. “I only owe it to Him because He provided these gifts for me to put it to use in service of the people. So that keeps me going.”

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