What’s the first thing you do when you get home after a day out? For Father Frank Jones, Chair of The Priests Foundation, it’s sitting down with Gita, his trusty four-legged companion. It’s a retreat to a sanctuary where he can reflect, find solace, and recharge from the day’s work.
Late last year, Fr. Frank had a conversation with Fr. Wrex Woolnough, one of our Archdiocese’s most beloved priests who, after 51 years of service, was preparing to retire from active ministry.
“I can tell you from personal experience that as much as we look forward to retirement, it is hard for priests to do. There is a loneliness that goes with stepping away from your parish. The rhythm and flow that has dictated your whole life suddenly falls away as the people who have leaned on you turn to someone else,” Fr. Frank said.
The theme of a personal haven of rest and peace echoed throughout his conversation with Fr Wrex. With retirement looming, Fr Wrex was profoundly aware that soon he would have nowhere to call home, as he would need to move out of the presbytery he had been living in for the past six years.
Fr. Wrex shared, “I’m the sort of person that doesn’t get an electrician in to change a light bulb. I do things myself, and I like it that way.” His hands-on approach to life extends to his perspective on retirement. A time he envisions being able to go for walks, spend time with friends, and feel at peace with himself. And the opportunity to have a place to call his own.
The Priests Foundation was established for this exact reason – to give these men, who gave their lives in service to Christ a place to grow old with dignity, and the healthcare they need to continue as part of our Catholic community for as long as possible. Fr. Frank is determined to find this place for Fr. Wrex.
When asked where he envisions himself growing old, Fr. Wrex’s heart was set on the north side of Brisbane. He has a couple of good friends there, and some family who will come visit.
At the time, Fr. Frank knew the Archdiocese had nowhere that fit this description, with the only option being a home deep in the Sunshine Coast hinterland.
Then, through the grace of God who hears every prayer, Fr. Frank received notification that a generous donor had made a gift in their Will to the Living Waters Parish Caboolture. This meant that The Priests Foundation had access to a two-bedroom unit on Bribie Island for residential accommodation for retired priests. It’s a 1970s build and has had no updates or improvements in fifty years. While there is much work to be done before Fr Wrex can move in, we are so grateful that we can now offer this dedicated priest a home close to the parish he lived and worked in for more than seventeen years.
This is where your help will make a real difference this year. Before Fr Wrex can “put his feet up, do what he wants to do, and have an opportunity to reconnect with hobbies and personal interests” we have to turn this unit into a comfortable, fit-for-purpose home. That includes big items like new walls, carpets, paint, an air conditioning unit, a fridge, and other white goods, as well as those smaller items like a cosy chair or a warm rug, that make a house a home.
Your tax-deductible donation will help with these expenses and ensure Fr Wrex has all he needs as he enters his ‘less-active’ ministerial years. As with all priests entering retirement, their call to ministry never really ends, and they may be called upon from time to time to offer support as required.
This year, we welcomed nine men to the ranks of retired priests. We celebrate their long years of dedication and service, but we also acknowledge the great responsibility we now have to care for them as they have cared for us.
As with Fr Wrex, these men need basic accommodation to meet their needs and medical care as they become frail and unwell. Your unwavering dedication is crucial to our efforts, and I hope you’ll consider renewing your commitment by making a gift today. These men have been spiritual pillars of our communities, guiding us through life’s journey, offering solace in times of hardship, and celebrating with us in moments of joy. Through our combined support, we express our thanks and ensure their earthly needs are met.
Because of you, our retiring priests can enter this well-deserved journey of rest and reflection knowing they have a congregation of the faithful carrying them in prayer and service.