By ERIKA ANDERSON, Staff Writer | Published March 8, 2007
Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory held a special Mass and luncheon at St. George Village to honor the retired priests of the archdiocese Feb. 19.
Archbishop-emeritus John F. Donoghue concelebrated the Mass, along with several of his retired brother priests and Father Joe Corbett, vicar general, and Father Frank McNamee, pastor of St. Peter Chanel Church, which shares its property with the Catholic Continuing Care Retirement Community of St. George Village. Many of the St. George residents also attended the Mass.
During his homily, Archbishop Gregory gave special recognition to the priests who minister in unique ways in their retirement.
“Though they are retired, most of them still dabble in the fine art of priesthood. Archbishop Donoghue, I think, is even busier now than when he was archbishop,” he said with a laugh.
Following the Mass, the priests gathered for a special luncheon in their honor.
Though no longer in active ministry, many of the retired priests still serve the archdiocese in many ways. Father Walter Foley, who retired in 1998, said the best part about being retired is “only working weekends.” He often fills in at area parishes, celebrating Masses on the weekends where he is needed.
“It’s good to keep your foot in the door, to justify being called ‘Father,’” he joked.
From 1979-1991, Father Jack Druding served as a chaplain at Atlanta’s Hartsfield Jackson International Airport, where he was one of three founding members of the interfaith chaplaincy program. Having retired from the priesthood in 2005 after serving at several parishes, he often still sees the inside of the airport, but now it’s from a traveler’s standpoint. In April, he will take a 24-hour flight to visit Singapore.
The resident of St. George Village admits it’s been difficult to slow down since his retirement two years ago. Like many priests, he fills in at parishes where needed but says he enjoys the freedom offered by retirement.
“I have always enjoyed celebrating weddings, but often (I’d be too busy) with parish life. Now I have the freedom to do a lot of different things,” he said, adding that there is an advantage to the experience he has obtained in his years as a priest.
“When I was younger and I was ordained, I thought I was going to convert the world,” he said. “But I’ve had a good priesthood, and I like the diocese very much. I gave a homily today and I quoted from Mother Teresa—‘may God help us not to spoil his work.’ I find that to be very true. We have to let God do his job.”
Father Druding, who holds a bachelor’s degree in English literature and was ordained in 1976 at the age of 39, said he spends a lot of time reading.
“I always have a current novel by my bed and a current theology book,” he said, adding with a laugh that he does not play golf, like a typical retiree. “Golf is an old man’s game, so I don’t play.”