FALL RIVER – This December, the Diocese of Fall River is unveiling a specially designated fund to support its priests. The Serving the Shepherds Fund is dedicated to ensuring that priests serving the Diocese receive the necessary resources, mentorship, and financial assistance at every stage of their ministry. The Fund’s mission is to provide care for priests throughout the continuum of their vocation, starting with discernment and extending through their retirement years.

“A flock will lose its way without able, alert and healthy shepherds…” said Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha, S.D.V., in a letter announcing the new Fund.

“Priests have made a lifelong commitment, which is not just a job; it is a vocation to serve. These men carry a tremendous responsibility as our spiritual shepherds, serving Christ, the Church, and our community.”

The bishop asked for continued prayers for priests and for consideration of support for the Serving the Shepherds Fund to help sustain them “in the work that God has called them to do.”

Over the past decade, hearing the call to the priesthood through an increasingly noisy world has become more complex. At the same time, most priests are carrying additional responsibilities, sometimes serving multiple parish communities and/or combining parish work with other diocesan ministries. For retired priests, the new status may mean less administrative work but usually continued demands for their time to help serve the faithful of the Diocese of Fall River.

Gifts to the Serving the Shepherds Fund will be used in a variety of ways to assist at all stages of the priesthood. The Fund will help underwrite the cost of opportunities for priests for ongoing professional development and to bolster their physical, mental, and spiritual health. These various multifaceted programs of priestly support are coordinated by the Office of Clergy Support, which was established two years ago by Bishop da Cunha.

In 2023, the outreach and recruitment work of the Diocesan Office of Vocations is increasingly challenging – and the Serving the Shepherds Fund seeks to support the office’s critical mission. Father Jack Schrader and Father John Garabedian, Vocations director and associate director, respectively, oversee a variety of efforts -both informational and invitational- to reach prospective seminarians. Along with in-person programs and events, these efforts now also utilize digital technology and social media.

Preparing men to become effective priests requires an investment in their education and formation. The Fund will assist in covering some of these expenses for diocesan seminarians in their journey toward ordination.

Finally, the Serving the Shepherds Fund will also help to support the financial needs of priests in retirement. The increasing costs of living, housing, and healthcare also affect retired priests, and providing for them in most cases after decades of dedicated ministry is both merited and necessary.

Each year, current diocesan collections to support some of these initiatives cover less than a quarter of their combined costs.

While it is critical to continue to pray for and offer gratitude to those who have said ‘yes’ to the call to serve as a priest and do so with generosity and dedication, the Serving the Shepherds Fund provides a way to offer financial support for them at all stages of their ministry.

Supporters of this new fund also send a powerful message of a caring community that stands behind their priests. In the words of Father Marcel Bouchard, a retired priest who continues to help out at parishes, “It is wonderful to offer the opportunity for parishioners to dedicate a gift,” which will impact the future of the priesthood.

The Catholic Foundation of Southeastern Massachusetts administers this new campaign on Bishop da Cunha’s behalf. For more information or to give to the Serving the Shepherds Fund online, please visit www.catholicfoundationsema.org/shepherds or contact the Catholic Foundation of Southeastern Massachusetts at 508-675-1311.

Diocese of Fall River
Diocese of Fall River
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