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Joyous priests, joyous retirement

The retirement age in America is 65 years old, which is relatively young in priestly terms.

Though new retirees sometimes move to Florida, cruise the U.S. in RVs or travel the globe, clergy have at least another 10 years in full-time ministry, maybe more. Retirement age is 75, but with the permission of the archbishop, priests may remain on active duty as health permits.

But even with retirement, next steps don't involve shuffleboard or golf. Priests rarely "retire" retire. It's more like semi-retirement. Pastor-as-CEO duties — day-to-day business operations of parishes — go away, but priestly sacramental ministries remain.

"No more meetings or deadlines," Father Donald Glastetter said, with a smile. Father Glastetter, 77, was the senior associate pastor at St. Patrick Parish in Wentzville for 18 years until he became the "retired priest in residence" in June 2014 at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Washington, Mo. "No matter how much I tried to get ahead of myself, deadlines were always tough. It's really great to be able to not worry about the administrative part."

The sacramental part? Heaven on earth, the higher calling of Father Glastetter and brother priests to seminary formation.

Father Glastetter is just one example of retired priests who benefit from a special collection on Easter Sunday — the Archbishop's Easter Appeal for Retired Priests. Every year, Catholics in the Archdiocese of St. Louis open their hearts and give generously to the collection, which serves retired priests — about 90 guys in all.

The annual collection benefits retired priests regardless of where they live or whether they remain active in ministry. Active retired priests might live in a parish, at Regina Cleri apartment community 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 Bellefontaine Neighbors.

"The archdiocese has a remarkable retirement program for priests; that's what this collection is all about," said Msgr. Jerome Buchheit, 91, an elder statesmen among archdiocesan priests. "We can't be grateful enough for the care, concern and provision this diocese has for retired priests."

It wasn't always that way. When Msgr. Buchheit was a seminarian then a young priest in the 1950s, "older priests were concerned; there was nothing at all for them," he recalled. "Older priests didn't want to give up their parishes because they had no place to go.

"Thankfully, times changed."

At Regina Cleri

Cardinal Joseph E. Ritter founded Regina Cleri in 1959, in a renovated apartment building on Lindell near the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis. At times, as many as 120 retired priests lived there. In 1994, retired priests moved into a new, three-story facility next door to Cardinal Rigali Center in Shrewsbury.

Msgr. Buchheit is effusive in his praise for Regina Cleri, which he uses as a base of operations for celebrating five Masses a week at area nursing homes — four at Alexian Brothers' Lansdowne Village in St. Louis and another at Our Lady of Perpetual Help on the nearby campus of Cardinal Ritter Senior Services. He also celebrates Sunday Masses as needed at area parishes and leads Benediction at Regina Cleri, where he lives in a tidy two-room apartment. He has basically all he needs — a bedroom, bathroom, office/living room and rarely used kitchenette.

"They provide you three meals every day," explained Msgr. Buchheit, who retired to the De Soto area and assisted at St Rose of Lima Parish for 13 years before moving to Regina Cleri in 2014. "They do your housekeeping, clean your room, make your bed, do your laundry. ... What else do you want?

"Other guys with me here know; we're happy to be here."

The retired-priest residents gather to concelebrate daily Mass, vesting as usual and some genuflecting as required or ambulating as they're able.

Father Harold Voelker, 88, who gets around with the help of a cane, is among 34 retired priests currently living at Regina Cleri. Until recently, Father Voelker celebrated Masses at nearby Our Lady of Life Apartments, but he found it too difficult to fold his 6-foot-6 frame into a car for the drive.

Still, he regularly meets people for spiritual direction at Regina Cleri, as well as visitors from Kenrick-Glennon Seminary. Father Voelker absolutely lights up upon receiving visitors, the aches and pains of a senior citizen melting away. In addition to spiritual direction, he regales visitors with stories about his time as pastor at Our Lady in Festus, St. Joseph in Zell and St. George in Affton. His stories are peppered with laughter.

In 2014, he celebrated his 60th jubilee with friends from Our Lady, where he oversaw development in the neighborhood for the betterment of the parish. Parishioners remember him fondly there even though he left more than 30 years ago. At St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Shrewsbury, his first assignment after ordination in 1954, a garden still is named in his honor — 57 years after he left.

There's nothing surprising about his popularity. Affable by nature, Father Voelker has been a social icon since his grade-school days, the go-to guy for organizing outings, reunions and, later, parish trips, including to St. Joseph of Zell's sister parish in Germany.

"There are so many highlights; a lot of memories," said Father Voelker, who clearly has enjoyed his life in service to God.

Joyous priests

Fathers Voelker and Glastetter, Msgr. Buchheit and many other retired priests are shining examples of joyous priests. Pope Francis definitely wasn't referring to them in the Joy of the Gospel, when he admonished priests not to look so grim after celebrating Mass.

"I agree with that," Father Glastetter said, with a smile. "Papal letters, I usually give up after six pages, but this one, I sat down and read the whole thing."

At Lourdes, he handles two school Masses a week, celebrates Sunday Masses and hears confessions, as well as administering baptisms, officiating weddings and presiding at funerals in assistance of pastor Father James Theby. That's just at the parish. He celebrates Mass, anoints the sick and visits patients every Monday at nearby Mercy Hospital. He's also on-call for anointing and Spanish translation, having picked up the language while serving in Bolivia.

In other words, he still does as he has done since being ordained by Cardinal Ritter in 1965, celebrating the Eucharist and acting as the instrument by which the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, the True Presence.

"I enjoy it very much," said Father Glastetter, who grew up in nearby Warrenton and Concord Hill and has siblings in the Washington area. "The people at Lourdes and in Washington are very friendly. I enjoy being here and I enjoy my priesthood."

Likewise, Msgr. Buchheit, who was ordained in 1951 by Cardinal Ritter (who was an archbishop then). As pastor at Holy Infant in Ballwin, he aptly managed administration, serving as a master builder of the parish complex and overseeing the parish's growth. Now having just sacramental ministry brings him great joy.

"I guess I enjoy saying Mass more now than I did saying it on a regular basis before," he said, with an omni-present smile. "I've enjoyed my priesthood very much, ... thoroughly enjoyed it." 

Mass remains integral part of Msgr. Lubeley's life 

Oldest priest in archdiocese concelebrates daily Mass with brother priest retirees 

By Dave Luecking | [email protected] | twitter: @legacyCatholic 

In 68 years as a priest, Msgr. Richard J. Lubeley spent his longest tenure at one parish ... in retirement: 15 years in residence at Mary Queen of Peace in Webster Groves, on top of five years as senior priest there before "retiring" in 1996 at age 75.

"I was there for a few more years after that," quipped Msgr. Lubeley, whose total tenure of 20 years ranks ahead of even pastors in the parish's history.

Born on Feb. 8, 1921, the fourth of Cecilia and George Lubeley's five children, Msgr. Lubeley is the oldest priest in the Archdiocese of St. Louis, at 96 years old — four months, three weeks older than Msgr. Charles Forst. However, Msgr. Forst is the longest tenured priest, ordained in 1945. Msgr. Lubeley worked for a few years before entering seminary and was ordained in 1949, along with brother priest Msgr. John J. Kennedy. The three monsignors are the only living priests in the archdiocese ordained before 1950.

About his longevity, Msgr. Lubeley said, simply: "I've enjoyed it. I didn't expect it be as long, but I'm satisfied. Hopefully, I've done something (good)."

Indeed, he has. Mary Queen named a meeting room in his honor: Msgr. Lubeley Room. It isn't just any room, either; it's among the parish's most active spaces, coming up often in a search of the parish's event calendar.

Before Mary Queen, he was pastor for 12 years each at St. Gabriel the Archangel in St. Louis (1979-91) and Assumption in O'Fallon (1967-79). At St. Gabriel, he was an early adopter of personal computers, teaching himself BASIC programming language and developing a program to track households and giving.

"My first computer had eight megabytes; not gigabytes, megabytes," said Msgr. Lubeley, who helps his brethren at Regina Cleri, the archdiocese's apartment community for retired priests, with their computer issues.

Before his parish assignments, Msgr. Lubeley served in education for 18 years. He taught at St. Mary's, De Andreis and Laboure high schools for eight years after ordination, then moved to Bishop DuBourg High School as an administrator from 1957 to '67. He earned a master's degree in education with a minor in mathematics from St. Louis University in 1956.

Msgr. Lubeley's call to the priesthood "started from a young age. I guess it was always in my mind, back to my grade school days." An uncle and a cousin were priests and his brother was a seminarian, so he had plenty of role models. He might have followed his brother directly into the seminary, but tuition was more than twice Southside Catholic's — $50 vs. $20. He worked at an accounting firm out of high school and held down two jobs to earn enough to enter the seminary.

As a transitional deacon and a young priest, he ministered in the Catholic Motor Mission, in which he and a partner set up shop in small southern Missouri towns, where "they didn't have a priest or had never seen one. The pulpit was the front bumper of the car." They preached in a two-hour program, and he spoke extemporaneously, without notes. That gave him the freedom to speak without a script, which helped him later in homilies.

Did they convert anyone?

"I have no idea," he said, with a laugh.

A voice issue prevents him from delivering homilies today and also being the main celebrant for Mass. However, he concelebrates Mass on a daily basis with his brother priest retirees at Regina Cleri. "Mass becomes part of your life," he said. 

Retired priests | at a glance

Msgr. Jerome Buchheit

Born:Dec. 19, 1925

Ordained:May 3, 1951

Assignments: assistant pastor, Sts. Peter and Paul (St. Louis), 1951-56; assistant pastor, Immaculate Conception (St. Louis), 1956-59; assistant pastor, St. Peter (St. Charles), 1959-67; pastor, St. Joseph (Farmington) 1967-74; pastor, St. George (Affton), 1974-84; pastor, Holy Infant (Ballwin), 1984-2001; retired priest, with private residence and assisting the pastor, St. Rose of Lima (De Soto), 2001-14; residence at Regina Cleri (Shrewsbury), 2014-present.


Father Harold Voelker

Born:Sept. 27, 1928

Ordained: April 3, 1954

Assignments: assistant pastor, St. Michael (Shrewsbury), 1954-60; assistant pastor, St. Rita (St. Louis) 1960-65; assistant pastor, Immaculate Heart of Mary (St. Louis) 1965-70; pastor, Our Lady (Festus) 1970-81; pastor, St. Timothy (Affton) 1981-83; associate pastor, Ascension (Chesterfield), 1984-86; pastor, St. Joseph (Zell) 1986-94; pastor, St. George (Affton), 1994-2002; retired priest, with residence at Our Lady of Life Apartments (Shrewsbury) 2002-06; residence, Regina Cleri (Shrewsbury) 2006-present.


Father Donald Glastetter

Born:Dec. 15, 1939

Ordained: April 3, 1965

Assignments: assistant pastor, St. Francis de Sales (St. Louis) 1965-71; associate pastor, St. George (Affton) 1971-75; Latin America Apostolate, Bolivia 1975-81; associate pastor, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel (St. Louis) 1981-83; associate pastor, St. Sabina (Florissant) 1983-85; St. Joseph (Clayton), 1985-86; pastor, St. Blaise (Maryland Heights) 1986-88; Latin America Apostolate, Bolivia 1988-92; associate pastor, St. Andrew (Lemay) 1992-96; senior associate pastor, St. Patrick (Wentzville) 1996-2014, retired priest, with residence at Our Lady of Lourdes (Washington) 2014-present.


Msgr. Richard Lubeley

Born: Feb. 8, 1921

Ordained: June 7, 1949

Appointments: Catholic Motor Mission, 1949; assistant pastor, Resurrection (St. Louis) 1949-50; part-time teacher, St. Mary's High School (St. Louis), 1949-52; full-time teacher, De Andreis High School (St. Louis), 1952-53; full-time teacher, Laboure High School (St. Louis), 1953-55; part-time assistant pastor, St. Mark (St. Louis), 1955; assistant pastor, Resurrection (St. Louis), 1955-56; resident chaplain Mt. Providence Boarding School for Boys (Normandy) 1956-57; administrator, Bishop DuBourg High School (St. Louis) 1957-67; pastor, Assumption (O'Fallon), 1967-79; pastor, St. Gabriel the Archangel (St. Louis), 1979-91; senior priest in residence, Mary Queen of Peace (Webster Groves), 1991-96; retired with residence at Mary Queen of Peace, 1996-2011; residence, Regina Cleri (2011-present) 


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