How can a retired, sickly and old priest live with P1,300 worth of monthly pension money?

Retired priests, especially those assigned in Metro Manila have Church-run retirement homes that are readily available and affordable given that a relatively high pension money is given to them monthly.

Sadly, some priests cannot afford such care and simply fade quietly, said UST sacred theology professor Msgr. Sabino Vengco, Jr. 

Vengco, who dedicated more than 50 years of priestly life looking after the welfare of elderly and sick Filipino priests nationwide, said many dioceses around the country, like those in Samar and Leyte, have inadequate pension plans and retirement care for old and sickly priests.

In Palo, Leyte, for example, aging priests rely on private donations for the maintenance of their retirement home. Other towns are simply too poor to extend such assistance.

Vengco, who founded Kadiwa sa Pagkapari Foundation Inc., an organization looking after such priests, said the retirees under the care of the Archdiocese of Manila were far more fortunate compared with those based in the provinces.

“Their monthly pensions are symbolic, in a sense that it is not realistic. How can you live with P1,300 per month?” Vengco told the Varsitarian.

Fr. Edgar Macalalag, executive secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) Pension Plan Committee, explained that all parishes have pension plans, but the amount of money received by retired priests vary nationwide, depending on the resources of a diocese.

“There is no uniform, national pension plan, rather, ‘kaniya-kaniya,’ according to the resources of every local church or diocese,” he told the Varsitarian in an e-mail.

The CBCP established a pension plan in 1975. It is handled by the CBCP Pension Plan Committee.

Diocesan priests contribute a sum of money each month to the pension plan, which will eventually become their pension.

Macalalag noted that one out of every five priests are not members of the pension plan.

Eligible members of the plan include all bishops and diocesan priests nationwide who are in good and regular standing and not 55 years old, and those to be ordained and incardinated to an archdiocese.

The Code of Canon Law states that priests may retire upon the directive of their bishop at the age of 75, or earlier if they are have serious health issues.

A 2014 census of retirement ministry Kadiwa sa Pagkapari Foundation Inc. (Kadiwa), founded by Vengco, showed that there were 300 retirees among 5,000 clergymen across the country. 

As reported by the Archdiocese of Manila in 2017, there are at least 9,000 ordained priests in the Philippines.

Retirement homes

Vengco said sending a priest to a retirement home is not easy.

“Priests first have to learn learn to accept and make the best of old age, and to assist them in a peer group and in their get-togethers with priests in the whole country,” he said, adding that forcing priests to go to retirement homes is not an obligation of the Church.

For 90-year-old Msgr. Vicente Dacuycuy, who decided to live the remainder of his priestly life in the Cardinal Sin Welcome Home (CSWH), aging is a weakness that he has learned to accept upon receiving care from the retirement home.

Dacuycuy is the oldest of the 19 retired clergymen staying at the CSWH.

His last assignment as a parish priest was the Christ the King Parish in Las Piñas, from 1994 until his retirement in December 2002, when served as the CSWH director.

Located inside the compound of Our Lady of Loreto Parish Church in Sampaloc, Manila, the five-story retirement home has 40 rooms, two elevators, a chapel, a reading room,  and a gym. It has 35 staff members, 14 caregivers, and nine in-house nurses.  

The late Manila archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin funded the establishment of the retirement facility in 2002 to provide medical attention and nursing care, maintenance medicines, free food, lodging, and leisure activities.

Dacuycuy said the Archdiocese of Manila had provided more than enough emotional and spiritual care to the residents of CSWH. He said he had long forgone his worries of aging.

“Hindi ko na iniintindi kung ano ang aking kakainin, kung maysakit ako, hindi na. Inaalagaan kami rito. Ang Archdiocese ng Maynila ang namamahala sa aming kalagayan. Hindi na nain iniintindi ang aing tirahan, pagkain, pati health,” he told the Varsitarian.

Canonically, each ecclesiastical jurisdiction is autonomous from another, hence the healthcare plan of clergy members will depend on whether there is a church-run hospital in the archdiocese or none. 

In the Archdiocese of Manila, there are five hospitals where priests can go in case of emergency, but in parishes in the provinces and remote areas, hardly a clinic can be found, said Vengco.

Vengco, however, said dioceses around the country, like the Diocese of Cubao, which started building the Casa de Silencio renewal center, are starting to build their own retirement homes.

He hopes the faithful will start giving help to priests in provinces who may not afford these retirement homes.

“For years, Kadiwa has been trying to convince, prick the conscience of lay people to send help not only in Metro Manila but also in provinces like these,” he said. Marem A. de Jemel


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