During the luncheon, Father William Bausch, a retired priest of the Diocese, second from right, is greeted by Msgr. Edward Arnister, episcopal vicar for Monmouth County, Father Stanley Lukaszewski, episcopal vicar for Ocean County, and Bishop O'Connell.
During the luncheon, Father William Bausch, a retired priest of the Diocese, second from right, is greeted by Msgr. Edward Arnister, episcopal vicar for Monmouth County, Father Stanley Lukaszewski, episcopal vicar for Ocean County, and Bishop O'Connell.

Prayer, fellowship and food.

These were the hallmarks of the day Nov. 7 as 24 retired priests of the Diocese gathered in Spring Lake with Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M. There, in St. Catharine Church and later in the Breakers Hotel, the Bishop celebrated their years of ministry with Mass followed by a convivial meal.

PHOTO GALLERY: Bishop, retired priests of the Diocese gather for Mass, luncheon

Beginning with the liturgy, this first-time ever event was a day of stories and warm memories which, Msgr. Ronald J. Bacovin reflected, scanned hundreds of years of collective priestly ministry. “It’s nice to look around and see so many brother priests who share the same experiences,” observed Msgr. Bacovin, who was ordained in 1966 and retired in 2012.

For the priests present, Msgr. Bacovin said, those memories and stories begin with the earliest days of implementing the Second Vatican Council. “We were the transition team,” he said with a smile. “We’re an important part of Church history.”

Stories Worth Sharing

Bishop O’Connell celebrated the Mass with Msgr. Edward J. Arnister, episcopal vicar of Monmouth County, and Father Stanley Lukaszewski, episcopal vicar of Ocean County, concelebrating. Also concelebrating was Father Damian McElroy, pastor of St. Catharine–St. Margaret Parish.

Reflecting on the day, the Bishop noted that he does not have the same opportunities to meet with the retired priests of the Diocese as he does with priests currently serving full-time in parishes or institutions.

“This gathering provided me, as Bishop, and the retired priests themselves with such an occasion to celebrate Mass together and to renew our fraternal relationship and friendships,” he said.

In his homily, Bishop O’Connell thanked his brother priests for their years of devotion to the Church; to the parishes and schools they served as well as the charitable institutions, social service agencies and worthy causes they devoted time to over the years.

He encouraged them to share the stories of all those years of service, to focus on them with love and attention. “The stories we have to share are the stories that sustain us in difficult times and joyful times,” he said. “Today, we celebrate your stories, for your stories are the stories of the Diocese of Trenton.”

The Bishop spoke about the memories he accrued during the years of his own priesthood. Now, nearly 65 ago, he said, “I have been reflecting a lot on what it all means to have some time left. I think about what it meant starting out as a new priest thinking I’m going to change the world.”

“Now I realize the world is changing me. I realize how much of life is celebrated in years past” and the importance of “moving ahead with great grace.”

Food for the Soul

Throughout the day, Bishop O’Connell noted the ongoing service the 64 retired diocesan priests continue to contribute. “You men give so much, we are grateful for all that you do,” he said.

Just how much they give was borne out in the conversations flowing over lunch. From parishes to prisons, to social service agencies to spending more time praying and socializing with members of the communities they once oversaw, life in retirement, they said, is never boring.

“Oh, we’re roaming Catholics now,” agreed Msgr. Casimir H. Ladzinski and Father Anthony M. Carotnuto who both lead active retirements helping out in parishes and institutions.

Both Msgr. Ladzinski, who retired in 2012 after five decades of active ministry, and Father Carotenuto, who retired in 2013 after 45 years as a parish priest, say they would not have it any other way.

Msgr. Ladzinski has a busy schedule of Masses in Lawrenceville’s St. Ann Parish and helps out in Our Lady of Sorrows–St. Anthony Parish, Hamilton, and other parishes as well. Father Carotenuto celebrates Masses as needed in St. Mary Parish, Colts Neck, St. Teresa of Calcutta Parish, Bradley Beach and St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral, Freehold.

“I could not stop being involved in parish life,” said Father Carotenuto, who also devotes time to prison ministry, Gennesaret retreats for the sick and the Catholic Worker in New York.

The wonderful thing about this active retirement, Msgr. Ladzinski said is that he stays very involved but the schedule allows more time for prayer.

Msgr. James H. Dubell, who was ordained in 1964, retired in 2015 to his own home on two acres of land that he enjoys tending. Along with maintaining the property, he also celebrates Masses as needed in St. Isidore the Farme Parish, New Egypt.

Like his brother priests in retirement, he rejoices in the blessings of this change in status. “I enjoy helping in the parishes, preparing the homilies – it keeps me active. Being retired gives you time for prayer, reading and visiting family which I didn’t have a lot of time for before I retired.”

“I came to the celebration to be with retired priests and to see and be seen,” he said. “It’s important to keep in touch.”

Msgr. John K. Dermond, ordained in 1968 and retired from full-time ministry in 2013 as a pastor and judicial vicar for the Diocese, is one of a number of priests at the celebration who shared what it means for them to reside in Villa Vianney, the diocesan residence for retired priests in Lawrenceville.

Msgr. Dermond’s observations mirrored those of his priestly brothers. The quarters “are a nice size, with meals and laundry included” and good company. “Twenty-five retired priests live in the place and nice people work there. We wouldn’t have that but for the generosity of the people,” he said.

Ordained in 1966 and retired in 2012, Father Brian McCormick is also one of the residents of Villa Vianney. This puts him in proximity with the projects he established to help boost living conditions in inner-city Trenton with housing and community action.

Still active in these areas, he took the day off to “spend time with fellow priests and give each other support and also to share some insights about getting older gracefully,” he said referencing the Bishop’s remarks at Mass.

“We need to do the best we can with the time we’ve got,” he said with a grin. “Visit people, keep busy, keep sharing those stories and connecting with the poor.” After all, he said, “we’re not in heaven yet.”