Msgr. Edmund Griesedieck describes his path to the priesthood as a “late vocation.” He was ordained at age 35 after spending several years in the U.S. Air Force and the workforce, and 57 years later, he’s still serving the people of the Archdiocese of St. Louis.
“Two questions I often ask people, and I continue to ask myself: Who do you claim to be — what’s your identity, and what’s your purpose for living? How do you serve?” he said. “I’m happy to say among my facets of my identity, I’m a priest of the Roman Catholic Church, and I still am happy to serve.”
Msgr. Griesedieck, 92, is one of 77 retired priests in the archdiocese. An annual special collection held at Masses on Easter benefits priests in retirement, regardless of where they live and whether they remain active in sacramental ministries. Of the retired archdiocesan priests, 14 are in residence at parishes. Other retired priests live in private residences, independent senior housing or at Regina Cleri, and they help parishes in the archdiocese with celebrating the sacraments.
Throughout his priestly ministry, Msgr. Griesedieck served in parishes at St. Roch in St. Louis, Good Shepherd in Ferguson, St. Mark, St. Barbara and St. Cronan in St. Louis, and St. Alban Roe in Wildwood. After retiring in 2005 at age 75, he spent several years in residence at Most Sacred Heart in Eureka, Our Lady of Sorrows in St. Louis and Kenrick-Glennon Seminary before coming to live at Regina Cleri.
Today, he continues to serve as a spiritual director, including for people working to overcome addictions, drawing on his own experience of decades of sobriety from alcohol and involvement with the Catholic Renewal Center.
“Through my own addiction with alcohol, I was led to the 12-step movements, and there’s lots of connections to Ignatian spirituality and all of that. There’s a lot of satisfaction that I receive in doing the kind of spiritual direction work that uses the tools,” he said. “Whether it’s hearing confessions of people with habits today — it may not be alcohol, it may be pornography, things like that — I say, ‘There’s a lot of tools out there to help you to arrest those habits,’ and I can use my own experience.”
He also finds great joy in visiting assisted living homes to celebrate Mass, helping out with noon Mass and confessions at St. Ambrose on the Hill and assisting with retreats at Vision of Peace Hermitages in Jefferson County. Msgr. Griesedieck feels “very fortunate, at my age” to able to continue sharing the love of Christ with others.
“It has great value, just knowing that God will provide for you and you have a mission and a purpose,” he said. “When people say, ‘I don’t want to bother you,’ I say, ‘You’re not bothering me. When I (am) able to use my gifts to serve you, I have a better day.’”
Msgr. Tom Dempsey, a fellow retired priest and Regina Cleri resident, remembers the positive influence of older priests even before he entered seminary himself. He worked at Camp Don Bosco for nine years, under the direction of Msgr. Lloyd Sullivan and Msgr. Louis Meyer.
“They were people priests. They loved people and they worked for people, and that had a great influence on me,” Msgr. Dempsey said. “When I became a priest, that was what I was looking for. I was looking for ways that I could help people and work with people. That’s been most of my priesthood.”
One of Msgr. Dempsey’s favorite roles during his ministry was teaching at Duchesne High School for 35 years. “I enjoy teaching and I enjoy preaching,” he said. “I think my teaching in high school has influenced my preaching a lot. I love to explain and teach the Gospel, and that’s been one of my real joys.”
He also served at Our Lady of Guadalupe in Ferguson, St. Monica in Creve Coeur, St. Patrick in Wentzville, St. Peter in St. Charles, St. Dismas in Florissant, Most Holy Trinity in Hyde Park, Assumption in Mattese and Holy Infant in Ballwin. After retiring at age 75, he spent 10 years as a priest in residence at St. Joan of Arc Parish in south St. Louis before moving to Regina Cleri.
Although he no longer resides in a parish, Msgr. Dempsey, 86, enjoys traveling around the archdiocese to celebrate Mass and offer the sacrament of confession, spending time with former parishioners of his and meeting new people, too. “I see the people as the parish,” he said.
In his 60 years as a priest, he never lived alone in a rectory, he said, and he was enriched by the fellowship of other priests as they shared the joys and challenges of their ministry.
“I love being with priests. I love the company of that, even here now at Regina Cleri living with a good number of priests, many of whom were in my seminary with me. Several of them were associate pastors with me at the same time,” he said. “Being able to renew those friendships and making new friendships among the priests has been one of the real blessings of Regina Cleri.”
>> Give to the Collection for Retired Priests
The annual Archbishop’s Collection for Retired Priests is traditionally held on Easter Sunday. The collection helps assure our priests receive the essential care they need, including physician services, hospitalization, nursing home care, vision care and disability, now and for years to come.
There are currently 77 retired priests in the Archdiocese of St. Louis. Fourteen are in residence at parishes, while the rest are retired at Regina Cleri, a private residence or in a senior living/nursing home.
You can make your gift on Easter weekend (April 8-9) in your parish collection.
You can also give via text through April 20 by texting “4PRIESTS” to (314) 648-8456.
Give online year-round at archstl.org/retiredpriests.