Economic downturn hits Shepherd's Trust hard

  • November 6, 2009
{mosimage}TORONTO - With no children to turn to, retired priests in Toronto can approach Marisa Rogucki, the co-ordinator of retired diocesan priests in the archdiocese.

She is their go-to person for everything from dental appointments to funerary arrangements. But over the past dozen years, she has also been instrumental in rallying funds for the Shepherd’s Trust, a trust fund supported by an annual collection to raise money to provide for retired priests in years to come.

“We have 84 retired priests now and although we have this collection every year you can imagine this collection isn’t enough to take care of all of them,” she said.

Although priests do receive CPP and old age security, that means practically nothing for many retired priests today.

“When you look at what they’re receiving by those two sources, we really have to look at the amount of their salaries when they were first ordained,” she said. “Some of them were getting maybe $50 a month, so because their income was very poor, they never built up enough income to help with CPP and Old Age. That’s basically why the Shepherd’s Trust was started.”

Although retired priests are getting what they need from funds raised by the Shepherd’s Trust and from individual supporters, Rogucki said ideally they would like there to be enough money in the pot to ensure that there is never a question of whether or not the priests will have enough money for the social services, transportation and medical care they need.

“We approximate going for another 10 years to make (the Shepherd’s Trust) self-sufficient,” she said, adding that their projection was for only seven more years until the worldwide financial crisis hit.

“We got hit so bad last year so then we had to increase it to 10 years until the collection is self sufficient. Then we won’t have to do it any more,” she said.

Last year the Shepherd’s Trust raised $1,239,387 through the parishes, $448,523 through bequests and $69,356 through donations on its web site. The annual golf tournament raised $7,000.

This year’s parish campaign will take place Nov. 14-15, though Rogucki said people are welcome to donate year-round.

Of interest, she added, Shepherd’s Trust not only helps diocesan priests, which is its main mandate, but it also helps religious order priests.

“When the collection happens every year, the amounts that are sent to us by the religious order parishes are then divided amongst the number of religious order priests we have working in our parishes — not religious order priests who are working in the schools,” she said.

Because religious orders take a vow of poverty, it’s even more difficult for them to pay for services later on if they become sick or are in need of care.

“That money is then sent to the order for the needs of that particular priest in his retirement and the order takes care of them in retirement,” she said.

The campaign’s motto, “Caring for those who always cared for us,” resonates a little more strongly in Rogucki’s job, which she really enjoys. She finds it’s important to support the needs of clergy who have “served our family of faith, enriching our lives in our own homes, schools, churches, hospitals and other areas of ministry.”

“I’m probably one of the few people who do this in Canada,” she said.

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