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“Right now, there’s only one home in our eparchy for retired priests. So as the priests get older, they have to live separately and alone in their parishes,” explained 38-year-old Father Binoy Pozholiparambil, supervisor of the Vianney Home project.

“We want them to be together near the center of the eparchy. But to do that, we need to build a new home.”

The Vianney Home represents the eparchy’s long-awaited solution to its retirement housing shortage. Slated to open early this year, the one-floor, 16-room facility will offer its residents clean and spacious living arrangements fully equipped with all the modern amenities.

Ten of the first residents are expected to relocate from St. Joseph’s. Over the next 10 years, provided adequate funding is available, a second-floor will be added to accommodate the projected increase of retiring priests.

Certainly not a card game, the project is unequivocally an act of “support.”

“To build this home, all of us — young and old — will work at it. Even on their vacation, our seminarians will come here for a month to do manual labor. They’ll help move these bricks and build this home,” Father Pozholiparambil said enthusiastically, pointing to a newly erected brick wall on the construction site. “It’s their way to help support the older priests.”

The blueprint for the Vianney Home project includes considerations beyond simply building a beautiful, restful home for retirees in a bucolic village.

“We selected this location because it’s next to the boys’ orphanage. The retired priests can tend to the needs of the boys at the orphanage and the boys can help the priests. They can support each other,” said the young priest. “In their old age, these priests can still engage with the children and guide them spiritually. The children are missing fathers and family guidance. The priests have an inner thirst for being a parent. So they’ll fill this role well.”

No matter how filled their daily calendars, the retired priests happily make time to indulge in what appears to be one of their favorite pastimes: sharing their reflections on India’s current transformation.

Who better than these men to provide valuable insight on Kerala’s development over the last 50 years? Throughout their lives, they have served the community, from the pulpit, in the confessional and through outreach and other social service activities. They have confronted head on society’s worst aspects and dedicated their lives to bringing out its best.

Now in retirement, they express their feelings freely, most notably on how many Keralites’ overarching drive for economic success has detracted from their spiritual growth and sense of togetherness.

“We used to depend on agriculture. We were farmers,” said Father Thadikkaren, who was ordained in 1963 and retired to St. Joseph’s in 2001. “Then in the 1980’s, young people started to move around. There was a lot of progress — social, industrial, economic — in Kerala. But now, everyone is studying computers and engineering and no longer working with their hands like their fathers. Today, the young people want more. I pray for their safety.”

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Tags: Kerala Priests Caring for the Elderly Retirement