Every year, the Catholic Courier’s staff members work diligently to mark the jubilees of diocesan nuns, priests and deacons.
Many people look forward to reading our "Milestones" issue every May.
And each time I finish interviewing the current crop of priests celebrating anniversaries, I am impressed by the activity and mental acuity of our elder priests.
At times, I have even declared out loud, "There is something about being a priest!"
Many people have heard of "The Nun Study", which studied the brains of women religious to confirm that physiology combined with their communal lives helped prevent dementia in many of the sisters.
I found another study (projectm-online.com) about cloistered religious that showed monks, as well as nuns, live longer than men in the general population.
When you look at any of this research, the findings make sense. The members of these communities have low-stress roles, their needs are taken care of, they remain active in their old age and they are respected as elders.
As Psalm 23 states: "The Lord is my Shepherd. I shall not want."
But I wondered if anyone had looked into the lives of priests, since they have different roles.
While I couldn’t find specific research on priests, they, too, share the factors that contribute to the longevity of religious. Most of the priests I’ve interviewed have remained active in ministry long past the secular retirement age and even past reaching senior status in their priesthood.
As one interviewee recently said, "You are always a priest."
I think that’s the secret to aging gracefully for all of us: staying active, playing an active role in our personal and faith communities and learning new skills whenever possible.
May God bless all our sisters, priests and deacons as they mark their jubilees this year and beyond!