The retired priests of the diocese have taken care of God’s people for decades. Now the faithful are giving back to them through a much-needed expansion of St. John Vianney Manor retirement home.
Sacrificial gifts to Our Campaign for The Church Alive! are helping to support the first major renovation of the facility since it was built on the campus of St. Paul Seminary in Crafton in 1961 and later became a home for retired priests.
Bishop David Zubik said the project was one of his dreams in the historic fundraising initiative.
“I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for the example of so many wonderful priests,” Bishop Zubik said in an interview for the campaign. “This is one way to be able to show our retired priests how much we love them, how much we appreciate them, and how much we really need to thank them.”
“This part of the diocesan campaign case statement struck a tender chord in the hearts of parishioners,” said Father Philip Przybyla, director of St. John Vianney Manor. “We are quite grateful for their response.”
The need for housing is growing. The diocese has nearly 100 retired priests, with many more expected to join them in the coming years as the largest ordination classes of the 1960s approach retirement.
Father Mark Eckman, Episcopal Vicar for Clergy Personnel, said the average age of retirement for priests is 73, but 40 priests still in active ministry are older than 70, and 10 are in their 80s.
“Our retired priests are so generous,” Bishop Zubik said. “So many of them have served the Church beyond their mandated retirement age. We have an obligation to them, just as we have an obligation to all of our senior citizens.”
The renovation project at St. John Vianney Manor will include four new residential suites for a total of 36 suites. Another 20 could be added in the future.
Renovations include a new elevator, heating and air conditioning system, kitchen, dining and living rooms, exercise facility and nurse’s office. The bathrooms will be refurbished with walk-in showers, and each suite will receive new windows, carpeting and paint.
The main entrance will be moved to the opposite side of the building and face the campus. The renovation is expected to be completed in about one year.
About half the residents have relocated to parish rectories and other facilities. The remaining priests will move into different rooms in the building as all three floors are renovated.
Originally the home of the Conventual Franciscan Friars who taught at nearby Bishop Canevin High School, the building was converted into a diocesan retirement home by Bishop Vincent Leonard in 1980. It was named under the patronage of St. John Vianney, patron saint of parish priests.
The 29 men who most recently lived there have served in priestly ministry an average of 45 years each.
“Many of our retired priests continue to assist in parishes by celebrating Mass and hearing confessions,” Father Przybyla said. “They are a big help to pastors.”
After laboring tirelessly in the Lord’s vineyard in sacrifice for the Church and its people, they soon will have a new home for priestly fellowship and fraternity.