Father John Petrarulo sat down in the new dining room at St. John Vianney Manor retirement home and looked around, taking in the scope of the newly completed expansion project.
“I’m impressed. The whole complex astonished me,” he said. “Everything is fresh, brightened up. It’s very inspiring.”
Sacrificial gifts to Our Campaign for The Church Alive! from donors across the diocese helped support the first major renovation of the facility on the campus of St. Paul Seminary in Crafton, since a third floor was added 37 years ago.
St. John Vianney Manor was rededicated and blessed on Dec. 11 by Bishop David Zubik after 11 months of construction.
“This place is a reminder of how much our hearts show our love for our retired priests,” he said. “The renovations are the result of much research, planning and especially the financial contributions of the faithful.”
Msgr. Bill Ogrodowski was one of 16 priests who remained in residence while the renovations took place. He described the experience as “challenging but bearable. Our shoes were always muddy.”
“I’ve been on this property since the early ‘60s when I was in the high school seminary, and I have seen it change so much,” he said. “The building (entrance) now faces the campus. We’re, in a sense, more fully integrated.”
Four residential suites were added for a total of 35. A new wing includes the dining room, kitchen, two lounges, an exercise facility and nurse’s office. Suites were refurbished with walk-in showers, new windows, flooring and paint. The temperature of every suite can be controlled individually, thanks to an updated heating and air-conditioning system.
The new facility is “comfortable and certainly necessary,” according to Father Philip Przybyla, director of St. John Vianney Manor. “Practically everything in the building was original, and the bathtub-showers were an accident waiting to happen.”
Built in 1961 as the residence of the Conventual Franciscan friars who taught at neighboring Bishop Canevin High School, the building was dedicated as a diocesan retirement home in 1980.
The need for priest housing is growing. The diocese has 99 retired priests, with many more expected to join them in the next several years as large ordination classes of the 1960s and ‘70s approach retirement.
Father Mark Eckman, episcopal vicar for clergy personnel, said the average age of retirement for priests in the diocese is 73. Thirty-nine priests still in active ministry are older than 70, and five are in their 80s.
“I looked at the service to the church of the 30 men who will be living here next month, and it adds up to 1,447 years,” said Father Przybyla. “Their service continues, with many still helping out in parishes by celebrating Mass and hearing confessions.”
For their part, Father Petrarulo and Msgr. Ogrodowski are grateful to the donors who helped make the dream of their new home a reality.
“I’m very appreciative that people sacrificed,” Father Petrarulo said. “They had to give up something in order to help take care of us.”
Msgr. Ogrodowski helped to raise Church Alive! funds in two parishes.
“When you ask people for money, it’s never an easy thing,” he said. “For all the parishioners of the diocese who’ve given, I say thank you from the bottom of my heart.”