On Tuesday 6 and Wednesday 7 December, Archbishop Peter A Comensoli visited our retired priests at George Maher House in Clifton Hill and at Justin Villa in North Balwyn to celebrate Mass and share a festive Christmas lunch with them.

George Maher House and Justin Villa were both purpose-built in 1990 to provide and care for retired priests across the Archdiocese of Melbourne and are now run by VMCH.

As ‘White Christmas’ played in the background at George Maher House, Sr Cecilia Mvakameilalo of the Sister Disciples of the Divine Master (PDDM) put the finishing touches on the Christmas table, and the priests got their stoles ready to celebrate Mass with Archbishop Comensoil in the chapel.

In his homily, Archbishop Comensoli spoke encouragingly of what it means to persist in the life of faith:

Those who have faith—who continue to run the race—do not grow tired ... Be assured that the Lord sees you in your physical realities and in your faith realities too. And the faith reality is the one where, praise God, we do not tire. We continue to run strong and are able to share in the gifts that the Lord gives to us.

The next day, at Justin Villa, at the conclusion of Mass, the priests enjoyed a delicious Christmas lunch prepared by Chef Manager Tim Mountain, including a bombe Alaska for dessert. ‘I enjoy working with the priests,’ Tim said. ‘We get to communicate with each other and learn from each other.’

Resident Fr Len Thomas served for 57 years as a parish priest and for 20 years as a mental health chaplain. ‘I’m the same age as the Queen,’ he pointed out.

I was very happy today to eat all the sophisticated food and have a rest. I needed a rest.

The retired priests who live at George Maher House and Justin Villa become part of a family, living out their vocations together in the knowledge that they are ‘priests forever’. Two qualified nurses attend to their physical and mental wellbeing, and the priests take turns to celebrate Mass every day of the week.

As Sr Cecilia says of her work with the retired priests, ‘The joy is there. We know each other. I’m so happy and privileged to be in this ministry.’