by ROWENA OREJANA
Tucked in the heart of Ponsonby is St John Vianney House, home to 10 retired priests.
The latest resident, Msgr Brian Arahill, said 58 years ago, when he was ordained, he certainly hadn’t thought
about retirement or where he would live.
“But that’s the passage of time,” he said. “There comes the ‘right time’ [to retire].”
Msgr Kevin Hackett, Fr Anton Timmerman, Fr Peter Penney and Msgr Terry Leslie were having morning tea when NZ Catholic came for an interview. The atmosphere was jovial. There was much teasing going on.
“I’m enjoying being here,” said Msgr Arahill. “I know all the people that are here. It’s not like I’m coming in
to a strange community.”
The age of retirement is always personal, said Auckland Council of Priests chairman Msgr Paul Farmer, even as he pointed out that a number of priests in the diocese are well into their 70s and 80s.
“Currently, the house is full with 10 priests. We’ve always tried to keep one room free for priests who need to convalesce after surgery or illness. Because of the demand, this has not been possible for some time,” he said.
Because of this, Auckland diocese is embarking on a $3.2 million extension project, adding seven rooms to the facility.
The diocese has raised about $1.79 million from benefactors and estates and will launch a diocesan wide appeal to raise additional funds.
Msgr Leslie said the diocesan authorities hope that more priests can come to live there.
“I like living here. We are very well treated,” he said.
The priests were grateful to the Sister Disciples of the Divine Master who care for them, as well as to Elizabeth Tuakolo, the cook.
Fr Penney said living in St John Vianney House (SJVH) makes all the difference. “It’s the proximity of the doctor and the chemist, that’s very important to us. The fact that the doctor is very accommodating when we require them, that’s very important,” he said.
SJVH opened in November 2001.
“Throughout its 14 years of existence, it has been a huge asset to the diocese, providing good care, security, company and healthcare for our senior and retired priests,” said Msgr Farmer.
Msgr Farmer said planning had been under way for some time. Resource consent for the project had been given.
“It is hoped that building itself can start in the near future. It is hoped that through a diocesan-wide appeal,
the rest of what’s needed can be raised. Bishop Pat has recently initiated this diocesan-wide appeal for this very needy cause,” he added.
Msgr Farmer said all parishes, ethnic communities as well as charities and grants will be approached for additional funds.
“After years of dedicated service, sometimes in lonely and difficult situations, it is important that we care for our elderly, sick and senior priests in their twilight years,” Msgr Farmer added.