Most of the retired priests of the Diocese of Buffalo are hardly "retired" at all. Msgr. Angelo Caligiuri is a good example of that. At age 83, he still serves on the Priests Personnel Board, Diocesan Finance Council, board of directors for the Diocesan Counseling Center, and says weekend Masses and occasionally a weekday Mass at St. Joseph University Parish in Buffalo.
"We all are willing to keep going as long as we can," said Msgr. Caligiuri, but he adds that it's heartbreaking when a priest can no longer drive himself around. "That really kills their ministry. They're still willing to go out and say Mass, but they have to depend on other people to pick them up and take them there."
Just a few months ago, he had a bout with congestive heart failure. "I was getting weaker and weaker and by the time I got to the doctor I couldn't walk from one room to the other without sitting down. He gave me an EKG and rushed me to the hospital. They say it was a virus that attacked my heart." Msgr. Caligiuri was placed on heavy medication and has since resumed a fairly regular ministry schedule.
Medical setbacks like this can creep up at any moment. That's why the Diocese of Buffalo started the Retired Diocesan Priests Medical Benefits Fund, strictly to help pay the health care costs for those 125 retired diocesan priests. In its first year, last summer, parish collections raised approximately $280,000 but health care costs continue to rise. This year, that second collection will be held on Aug. 5 & 6 in all parishes.
"I think there's definitely a need for it," said Msgr. Caligiuri, who lives in the O'Hara Residence for retired diocesan priests. "In our residence, the ages are 97, 97, 96, a lot of 80s and a couple 70s." The collection in August is different from the Retirement Fund for Religious which, in December, supports the priests and sisters who belong to religious orders.
For the past 30 years, Msgr. Caligiuri has also visited the Dominican Nuns and still hears confession at the Doat Street Monastery every other week. He keeps in touch with younger priests who he taught in the seminary. He still meets with a husband and wife whom he married 45 years ago in Jamestown.
Remaining active like this has allowed him to know how many people he has touched over the years. "The affirmation comes in unexpected ways. The other day, I was invited to the Canisius College graduation luncheon. A woman came up to me and said 'Do you remember me? You married me many years ago.' She was gracious, and that happens very often."
Being a retired priest doesn't mean lounging by the pool and playing golf every weekend. Many priests remain active in parish life, celebrating Mass where and when they can to help support the pastor.
Father Charles E. Slisz, retired since 2015, has just been pulled back into the game. On July 1, Father Slisz took over duties as the rector of St. Joseph Cathedral in downtown Buffalo.