A visit to Regina Cleri, a residence for senior priests in the Archdiocese of Boston, offers a unique insight into the fraternal brotherhood of priests.
Clergy Trust’s residence for senior priests of the Archdiocese of Boston is located in Boston’s West End. There is a strong sense of grace that inhabits every floor of this top-of-the-line facility. Designed intentionally to provide a space that feels like home, Regina Cleri reminds residents that their vocation is celebrated and appreciated.
“Regina Cleri is a place where we celebrate with joy our faithful shepherds who have given their lives to ministry,” shared Executive Director, Stephen Gust. Gust has worked tirelessly for nearly 30 years to carry out Regina Cleri’s mission — to provide the opportunity for senior priests to live in a community where they are cared for to continue living out their vocation.
This mission was initiated by Cardinal Richard J. Cushing who knew it would be important to have a place like Regina Cleri for priests when they reach “retirement” age. When Boston’s West End was razed between 1950 and 1960, Cardinal Cushing saw an opportunity and had the facility built. It was dedicated in 1964 and has become one of the standout construction achievements of the Church in Boston.
As part of the Archdiocese of Boston’s recent Inspiring Hope capital campaign, funds were raised to make significant renovations to address the changing needs of an evolving and growing population of senior priests. Gust notes, “When I began working here 30 years ago, life expectancy was much shorter. Today, our residents are living longer, healthier lives, and many use walkers or wheelchairs. It’s important that we adapt to their needs.”
Through the generosity of donors like the Yawkey Foundation, the project included a chapel renovation to incorporate accommodations for aging priests, replacing pews with chairs with armrests (which provide support and balance to help prevent falls), an ambo and altar whose height can be adjusted with the press of a button, and landscaping the exterior grounds to create an inviting space for residents and visitors.
As alluded to by Gust, the mission of Regina Cleri is more important than ever since the number of priests facing retirement is growing rapidly. While some priests have the option to live with relatives, many do not. For these priests, Regina Cleri offers a safe, warm, and welcoming environment in the heart of Boston with access to 24-hour nursing care and daily Mass.
Fr. John Mulloy shared his appreciation for his new home saying, “Regina Cleri is a very, very special gift that we have in the Archdiocese of Boston. I’ve been here since last March, and it’s been a Godsend. It is a home with security, and that means so much to us as we get older and we have serious diseases and problems and we know we can’t be out in the parish anymore like we love to do. I am so grateful for the people who have made this possible.”
Regina Cleri also added respite rooms for active priests that need a place to recover from ailments, injuries, or surgeries. This is particularly meaningful for the priests who have access to the sacraments and the support of their brother priests as they regain their strength and health.
Above the altar in the Regina Cleri Chapel are the words “tu es sacerdos in aeternum,” Latin for “you are a priest forever.” Senior priests continue to make a profound impact on the spiritual and personal lives of Catholics of all ages. They celebrate Mass at various parishes, visit the sick and homebound, and bring God’s Word to those in prison. They cover responsibilities so that active parish priests have a chance to go on vacation and rest.
There is no mistaking the joy that is present throughout the Regina Cleri residence. Priests laugh and joke together, usually at each other’s expense. They are quick to swap stories and eager to share their experiences with visitors. It is clear to all who enter that Regina Cleri is much more than a retirement community. It is a place where men who have given their entire lives to Christ and the local church can sit back and listen to God’s whisper, “Well done, thy good and faithful servant.”