Approaching 50 years old in the early 1990s, Father Thomas Robertson
thought he was all set for retirement, though it was a long way off; he
planned to live in a cabin he owned along the Meramec River after
leaving parish ministry.
The Flood of ‘93 wiped out that plan … and the cabin, too.
as he neared 70, Father Robertson figured he’d settle into a private
residence upon retirement. Similarly, Msgr. James Telthorst admitted to
having “a couple of dreams” about having a place of his own. Neither
envisioned living at Regina Cleri Home for Retired Priests
But upon retirement in the past year, Father Robertson and Msgr. Telthorst joined their brethren at Regina Cleri.
nothing, except that the apartment community became appealing to both
of them. At Regina Cleri, they don’t have to worry about yard work, snow
shoveling, cleaning, meal preparation … basically, anything to do with
home upkeep. All of that is provided at Regina Cleri, where retired
priests live in two-room apartments with bed, bath and living rooms,
plus a kitchenette to use when not partaking in one of three meals
provided daily. Plus, they get to be with brother priests, who
concelebrate Mass, help at area parishes or senior-living centers and
just plain enjoy each other’s company.
Catholic St. Louisans help
make this possible, opening their hearts at this time of year and giving
generously to the annual Collection for Retired Priests on Easter
Sunday. The special collection benefits retired priests regardless of
where they live or whether they remain active in ministry.
given time, about 90 archdiocesan priests are in retirement status, with
around 30 at Regina Cleri. Active retired priests might live at Regina
Cleri, in a parish or on their own. Retired priests requiring more care
may be in assisted living at St. Agnes Home in Kirkwood or skilled
nursing at Mother of Good Counsel in Northwoods.
supports men “who have sacrificed so much for our parishes and
communities,” stated Archbishop Robert J. Carlson, who described it as
“an opportunity to give back to those who give so much.”
Father Robertson and Msgr. Telthorst are effusive in praise of their new digs.
impressed,” said Father Robertson, 78, whose official move-in date was
Jan. 3. “The service here is very good, and the staff is very nice.”
“It’s home to me; it really is,” said Msgr. Telthorst, 75, who moved in June 16, 2017.
Telthorst keeps a busy schedule of celebrating Masses — at a parish, at
senior-living apartments and for the Sisters of the Good Shepherd in
Normandy, “where I grew up as a priest.” After ordination in 1968, he
served in Normandy as associate pastor at St. Ann Parish. At Good
Shepherd, he knows some of the sisters from back then.
kind of a comeback for me,” Msgr. Telthorst said, adding that in
retirement, “I’ve had a wonderful time rediscovering my youth” in
returning to his old stomping ground and familiar faces. He also has
been able to focus solely on the liturgy, reminiscent of his tenure as
the director for the office of worship, all of this without additional
“We like to say that we’re still ministering, but not administering,” Msgr. Telthorst said with a smile.
Robertson has been substituting occasionally for Mass at his old
parish, St. George, while discerning his retirement ministry, “whether
that’s in a hospital or working with the poor.” He’s done both since
ordination. He worked on the front lines in the War on Poverty at St.
Barbara Parish in St. Louis, his first assignment after ordination in
1965, and he spent 17 years as a part-time chaplain at the VA Hospital
in Jefferson Barracks.
Another highlight in his priesthood was in
parish work, though it had nothing to do with administration. In the
mid-1970s, a religious sister at St. Matthias in Lemay suggested that he
sponsor refugees after the Vietnam War ended. So, he signed up.
said, ‘You’d be good at it,’” said Father Robertson, who eventually
served as surrogate father for four girls, ages 7 to 15. Their mother
and brother were deceased, and their father, a former policeman, was
struggling after the war. The parish’s St. Vincent de Paul Conference
and numerous volunteers helped them with the necessities of life, “but
they needed someone to be a parent for them. That was my job,” he said.
worked with them on a daily basis, helping with homework and tutoring
them in English. Eventually, the girls joined other relatives from
Vietnam in California, but they stay in touch Father Robertson. They
still call him “dad,” with their children calling him “grandpa.”
experience “changed my life,” he said, calling it “a good thing in my
life,” among many good aspects of a life in service to the Lord.
Easter Appeal for Retired priests
When: Second collection held at Masses on Easter weekend
Benefits: Priests in retirement, regardless of where they live and whether they remain active in sacramental ministries.
Years of service
Msgr. James T. Telthorst
Birthdate • May 7, 1942
Birthplace • St. Louis
Education • Laboure High School; Cardinal Glennon College; Kenrick Seminary; St. Louis University Divinity School
Ordination • May 11, 1968, by Archbishop John J. Carberry
Associate pastor, St. Ann Parish, Normandy, 1968-72
Faculty, St. Louis Prep Seminary North, 1972-82
Part-time associate pastor, St. Ann, Normandy, 1972-76
Associate pastor, St. Adalbert Parish, St. Louis 1976-80
Chaplain, Sisters of Charity, Incarnate Word Convent, Normandy, 1978-80
Chaplain, Oblate Sisters of Providence at St. Francis Day Care Center, Normandy, 1980-82
Director, Office of Worship, 1982-91
Part-time associate pastor, Corpus Christi Parish, Jennings 1983-84
Part-time associate pastor, Most Holy Trinity Parish, St. Louis, 1984-88
Associate pastor, Cathedral of St. Louis, 1988-91
Pastor, Cathedral of St. Louis, 1991-2002
Pastor, Our Lady of Sorrows Parish, 2002-09
Pastor, Mary, Mother of the Church Parish, 2009-17
Granted retirement status, with residence at Regina Cleri, 2017-present
Telthorst was named Prelate of Honor with title of Reverend Monsignor
by St. Pope John Paul II, which was announced by Archbishop Rigali on
Sept. 5, 1995. He was dean of the North St. Louis Deanery from 1994-97.
He also was elected to a three-year term the Archdiocesan Priestly Life
and Ministry Committee in December 1977.
Father Thomas M. Robertson
Birthdate • Sept. 7, 1939
Birthplace • St. Louis
Education • St. Louis Prep Seminary; Cardinal Glennon College; Kenrick Seminary
Ordination • April 3, 1965, by Cardinal Joseph E. Ritter
Assistant pastor, St. Barbara Parish in north St. Louis, 1965-70.
Teacher, Laboure High School, 1965-66.
Teacher, DeAndreis High School, 1967-69.
Associate pastor, St. Pius V Parish, south St. Louis, 1970-73.
Part-time teacher, St. Francis de Sales High School, 1970-71.
Associate pastor, St. Matthias Parish, Lemay, 1973-80.
Associate pastor, St. Raphael Parish, south St. Louis, 1980-87.
Pastor, St. Bartholomew Parish, Hazelwood, 1987-96.
Pastor, St. Catherine of Alexandria Parish, north St. Louis County, 1996-2005.
Pastor, St. George Parish, Affton, 2005-17.
Senior associate pastor, St. George Parish and St. Dominic Savio Parish, Affton, 2017-18.
Granted retirement status, with residence at Regina Cleri, 2018-present.
Robertson served as a part-time chaplain at the Veterans Hospital in
Jefferson Barracks in south St. Louis County from 1978-95. He coached
soccer while at DeAndreis and has served as a chaplain for the St. Louis
Soccer Hall of Fame since 2006. Father Robertson attended classes at
Weston School of Theology in Cambridge, Mass., in 1992.