Diocese is blessed with many retired priests who continue to serve the church

Fr. Paul Oborny celebrated the daily Mass Tuesday, Nov. 22, in the chapel at the Priest Retirement Center.

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The phrase retired priest is a bit of an oxymoron.

Priests don’t retire from being a priest, they retire from active ministry, says Fr. Michael Baldwin, the diocesan vicar for Retired Priests.

“It’s sort of like married couples,” he said. “They don’t stop being married when they retire.”

Fr. Baldwin, who is also the director of the Priest Retirement Center, said the main role of a retired priest is prayer. “We continue to do the official prayer of the church, the Liturgy of the Hours, and that’s for the whole church.”

Priest pray for us

Retired priests also pray for specific intentions such as for seminarians or for those who have left the active practice of their faith, he said. “They kind of find a little niche that is their prayer niche.”

The number of retired priests able to substitute for pastors who wish to take a vacation, go on a sabbatical, or serve as a temporary replacement is more sparse than usual, Fr. Baldwin said, because there were fewer ordinations in that era.

But the “supply” priests are no less busy, he said. “Some of our priests who are retired assist in other dioceses and even travel around the country for particular ministries.”

Another, Fr. Doug Campbell, is a regular fill-in chaplain for Via Christi St. Francis and St. Joseph. Fr. Wayne Schmid is very active in Derby and in providing relief for pastors.

Just a few at the retirement center

Priests living at the Priest Retirement Center are Fr. Stephen Gronert, Fr. Leon Kerschen, Fr. Pat Malone, Fr. Paul Oborny, and Fr. Hung Pham. Residents there celebrate daily Mass together, mentor some of the younger priests, and provide spiritual direction for others. The less active retired priests are often still available for the Sacrament of the Sick or penance services.

Most of the 21 retired priests of the diocese don’t live at the Priest Retirement Center, he said. Fr. Chrysostom Ah Maung, Fr. Bob McElwee, and Fr. Bob Wachter are in Southeast Kansas, where they assist priests in that part of the diocese. Fr. John Miller lives on his own, as does Fr. Steve Thapwa, who is in California where he is in service to the Burmese community. Fr. Michael Peltzer is a resident of the Catholic Care Center.

Fr. Dwight Birket, Msgr. Ivan Eck, and Fr. Floyd McKinney live near Cheney and serve the western parishes of the diocese – including some in the Diocese of Dodge City. Fr. John Sherlock is still the chaplain for Legatus, a Catholic lay organization, and fills in for pastors, especially those who need Masses celebrated in Spanish. The newest member of the group, Fr. Jim Mainzer, has also been busy filling in for priests and serving as a pilgrim trip chaplain.