Prophet Elijah House: An opportunity to support our retired priests

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Our priests enrich every age and stage of our lives. Through them, we are baptized, masses are celebrated, sins are forgiven, couples are united in marriage, and loved ones are delivered into the loving hands of God.

Unfortunately, after giving a life of service to the faithful, retiring typically at age 70, priests often are not able to afford a place to live, especially in Denver where housing costs continue to rise.  Luckily, we all now have an opportunity to care for them by supporting Prophet Elijah House, where they are guaranteed a locked-in monthly rate that will not outpace their pension.

The Prophet Elijah House, officially opened in April, is located on the campus of St. John Paul II Center.  The house offers its residents, retired priests, a comfortable place to enjoy their retired years.

“Our priests have helped nurture us spiritually throughout their lives, providing the sacraments and all that a priest does,” said Keith Parsons, Chief Operating Officer for the Archdiocese of Denver.

“Although they have a nice retirement pension…It’s not sufficient to pay for an appropriate place in our city. The cost of housing, especially for seniors living in Denver, is very expensive,” he added.

Named after the Old Testament prophet Elijah, the two-story, 24,150-square foot facility has 12 suites for retired priests and two guest rooms (for visitors or priests recovering from medical procedures).  It also offers communal areas to aid fraternity including a chapel, community kitchen, dining area, entertainment room with reading and conversation areas.  Priests also can participate in Mass, fitness and rehab programs, and enjoy community life with their brother priests.

“It’s already served as a blessing for those who are living here now… It’s been a tremendous service to our priests in helping them and letting them know that we are with them,” Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila told the crowd during the opening ceremony in April.

Six priests are already living in the Prophet Elijah House, and more are expected to move in during the coming months. Other priests, currently in active ministry, have added their name to the Prophet Elijah House registry and intend on moving in when they reach retirement.

“For me, a strong part of priesthood is fraternity. I look forward to a greater fraternity when the place has been around a while and more people will come,” said Father Tom McCormick, who moved in this past December just after being diagnosed with bladder cancer.  At the Prophet Elijah House he was able to receive assistance from his fellow residents.

However, none of these would be possible without those who generously donate to the Prophet Elijah House. About half the facility’s cost was provided by donors who wanted to make the center possible and keeps operating by donations of people who are willing to give back and take care of those shepherds who have taken care of us.

Your donations are vital to keep this center going and alleviate the burden of the expense it requires to deliver services and care to our retired priests who have given us so much.

“You’ve served us wholeheartedly and unreservedly and exclusively,” said Deacon Steve Stemper. “There is no one that we could be more grateful for than you — our priests.”

Contributions to the Prophet Elijah House can be made through their website. To donate, visit elijahdenver.org/support-our-priests.

COMING UP: A home for our fathers: Prophet Elijah House officially opened for retired priests

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Life is coming full circle for several retired priests in the Archdiocese of Denver.

“This is a coming home for our priests,” Deacon Mark Wolbach told a crowd of more than 50 people at the grand opening of the Prophet Elijah House on April 24.

“For many of our priests, they started here. This is where they discerned the priesthood,” he said. “This is where they formed their hearts to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

“It’s becoming that they come back here to the place where it all began.”

The Prophet Elijah House, a brand-new home for retired priests, is located on the campus of the St. John Paul II Center — the same area where many of these priests attended then-St. Thomas Seminary.

The house, which offers its residents a comfortable place to enjoy their retired years, “is a great blessing and something that the archdiocese has talked about for over 40 years,” Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila told the crowd during the opening ceremony.

“It’s already served as a blessing for those who are living here now,” he said. “It’s been a tremendous service to our priests in helping them and letting them know that we are with them.”

Now that the project has received its final inspections and obtained its certificate of occupancy, three priests have already relocated to the Prophet Elijah House, and more are expected to move in during the coming months.

The grand opening of the Prophet Elijah House retirement community for priests at the St. John Paul II Center for the New Evangelization took place on April 24. (Photo by Anya Semenoff/Archdiocese of Denver)

Other priests currently in active ministry have added their name to the Prophet Elijah House registry and intend on moving in when they reach retirement.

Deacons Robert Rinne and Mark Wolbach minister full time to the priests living in the retirement home, and the Carmelite nuns who also live on campus clean each priest’s room once a week. The priests are also provided with one meal a day and opportunities for fellowship and spiritual growth.

Father Tom McCormick, who retired in 2007, moved in this past December, just after discovering he had bladder cancer. During the weeks that followed the diagnosis, he had multiple surgeries and needed extra care.

Being able to receive assistance from his fellow residents, particularly Father Roger Lascelle, was humbling.

“Since my surgery, he’s been one of the major helps for me as I needed physical or even caregiving assistance,” said Father McCormick.

And although living with additional comforts is “a little adjustment” for the priest, who served the archdiocese actively for 60 years, he is grateful for the chance to retire alongside his peers.

“I’m appreciative of the fact that they built the house and have given us the opportunity to be here,” he said.

Just two doors down from Father McCormick is Monsignor Raymond Jones, which is fitting for the priests, who were roommates in 1951 when they were students at St. Thomas Seminary.

Being able to continue living in fellowship even into retirement is a joy for Father McCormick.

“For me, a strong part of priesthood is fraternity,” he said. “I look forward to a greater fraternity when the place has been around a while and more people will come.

“The future of fraternity is here.”

Retired priests living in the Prophet Elijah House are provided with a weekly room-cleaning service by the Carmelite nuns, one meal a day and opportunities for fellowship and spiritual growth. (Photo by Anya Semenoff/Archdiocese of Denver)

Several generous donors showed their support for archdiocesan priests with their contributions to the Prophet Elijah House, including families who sponsored priests’ suites, stained glass windows and the “Our Lady of the Memorare” chapel.

During the final opening remarks before Archbishop Aquila cut a ribbon outside the Prophet Elijah House, Deacon Steven Stemper, whose family was one of several donors in attendance, addressed the priests, including those who will enjoy the retirement home years down the road.

“You’ve served us wholeheartedly and unreservedly and exclusively,” said Deacon Stemper. “There is no one that we could be more grateful for than you — our priests.

“We hope and pray that all the residents here today and for the countless years to come will reside knowing of our gratefulness for their lives and their dedicated service.”