Opinion

'There's no other life I would have wanted'

byFather Henry Jennings
3/22/2013

In my 51 years as a priest of the Archdiocese of Boston, God has blessed me with countless friendships. This time of year in particular calls to mind memories of Easter Sundays celebrated with the friends who became family to me at St. Joseph's Parish in Somerville. As pastor of St. Joseph's for 46 consecutive years, I had the great privilege of meeting the good people there at all points along their faith journey.

When it came time for me to live at Regina Cleri, a residence for senior priests in Boston, I felt like a part of me was missing. I was sad to leave my parish family and the life I had known for so long. However, the past year at Regina Cleri has shown me that I haven't left that family at all -- in fact, I've gained a new one.

When a priest is in active ministry, he is focused on preparing others and helping them grow spiritually. At Regina Cleri, God rewards us with a tremendous gift -- the opportunity to continue this ministry in new and different ways, while also providing us with the time and space to prepare ourselves for meeting Him. Some bring Holy Communion to the homebound and sick; others celebrate Mass and offer the sacrament of reconciliation at parishes throughout the archdiocese; and we are on-call 24-hours a day at Massachusetts General Hospital for patients and their families who turn to priests during some of life's most critical moments. It gives me great joy to know that we are available to people when they need us.

The camaraderie and spiritual strength shared by my brother priests here is contagious, and the friends I have made are all a part of the charm of the place. I see the men here reflecting on their lives as priests -- the opportunities they were given, the things they were able to accomplish, the people they have met -- and they are just grateful. We don't worry about tomorrow here. We are just grateful for today.

Not only am I humbled and amazed by my brother priests, but I draw strength from the unfailing support provided through the wonderful staff at Regina Cleri, the Clergy Funds team, and also my former parishioners from St. Joseph's. When I first moved into Regina Cleri, the Clergy Funds team helped me transition to my new home. When I needed medical attention at Mass. General Hospital, a Regina Cleri staff member called me after her shift ended just to see how I was doing. My former parishioners also provide me with an ongoing source of laughter and energy with their phone calls, letters, and visits. All of these faithful and dedicated people give me reason every day to thank God for the gift of the priesthood -- a gift that keeps giving back, no matter how much we give.

I never thought I would live in a home for senior priests; I never thought I would need help. But the past year has reaffirmed what I have always believed in my heart to be true -- that our Lord will provide. The archdiocesan-wide collection this Easter is for the Clergy Funds, which supports the maintenance of the home I share with 52 other senior priests at Regina Cleri. I am deeply grateful to all who support my fellow priests in the Archdiocese of Boston with their prayers and generous gifts toward this special collection. It is my great privilege to continue serve God and His Church -- the friends who have become family. There's no other life I would have wanted. I couldn't be happier with the job God gave me.

Father Henry Jennings is a senior priest of the Archdiocese of Boston.