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Promises made, promises to be kept

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The Clergy Funds of the Archdiocese of Boston is in the business of keeping promises. Through your generosity, we are able to keep the promises our Catholic community has made to all the incardinated priests of this archdiocese. The promise to make sure that our active and senior priests' medical needs are taken care of; that dental benefits are provided for; that a reasonable stipend is available for our senior priests and those with disabilities; and the promise to maintain and support our residence for senior priests, Regina Cleri.

Each year the Clergy Funds spends $15 million to support our priests. This is accomplished in a fiscally responsible way. After several years of operating deficits, the Clergy Funds now operates on a balanced budget. This is one of the great financial turnarounds in Cardinal Seán's tenure at the archdiocese, but only because generous Catholics like you have contributed to the Clergy Funds.

One of the most important efforts each year to sustain the Clergy Funds is the collection taken up at all parishes in the archdiocese on Christmas. Christmas has always been a time of gift giving to priests and our priests decided in the early 1970s that the collections from all parishes should be pooled to care for each priest equally regardless of whether he is in the most affluent or the poorest area of our archdiocese.

This year's collection will specifically help provide 269 senior priests with housing and retirement stipends each month, as well as 650 active and senior priests with medical and dental coverage. Last year almost $4 million was spent on medical care for our priests (an average of $5,665 for the 90 percent of our priests that used the plan), $1.5 million was disbursed for prescription medication, and almost $500,000 was spent on dental coverage.

When a man is ordained a priest, he freely chooses to give his life to the Church and devote it to the service of God and all those he serves. Many of our senior priests have spent 50 years ministering to God's people. That means he has offered around 20,000 masses, probably heard 50,000 to 100,000 confessions, likely baptized 10,000 to 20,000 children and distributed First Communion to about as many. It is tough to estimate how many people he anointed with the Sacrament of the Sick or family members he comforted upon the death of a loved one. Consider how many people come to him for counseling when life gets tough. The numbers are likely staggering.

Priests make sacred promises on the day of their ordination and many other promises to be there for us throughout their ministry. Our Catholic community has always reciprocated by promising to care for our priests when they are ill, infirm and after their years of active ministry have come to an end. We call them "senior priests" not "retired priests" because a priest never retires any more than a mom or dad (or grandfather or grandmother) ever retires from those duties.

It is only through the generosity of Catholics in every parish in the Archdiocese of Boston that we can afford to sustain this level of support in a fiscally responsible way. The Christmas collection is the biggest of the three collections that are taken up and also a larger contributor than the successful annual dinner. Please consider making a special contribution this year in honor of a priest that had a special place in your and your family's life.

Please visit our website, www.clergyfunds.org, to learn more about the Clergy Funds, how you can support our priests and even see photos of some of the priests that may have been part of your life. If you will be away this Christmas, you can contribute online or send a donation to Clergy Funds, 66 Brooks Drive, Braintree, MA, 02184-3839.

This Christmas, as we welcome the newborn Jesus into the world, please help keep the promises we made to our priests.

God bless you.

Joseph D'Arrigo is executive director of The Clergy Funds of the Archdiocese of Boston.

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