Updated: Apr 6
Diocese expanding St. John Vianney Retirement Center to include five more apartments, guest room - The following story appeared in the Feb. 26 issue of the Idaho Catholic Register
Six of the eight priests currently residing at the St. John Vianney Center for Retired Priests include, from left, Father Raul Covarrubias, Father Roger LaChance, Monsignor Dennis Wassmuth, Father Dennis Day, Father Enrique Terriquez and Father Joseph Muha. Not pictured are Father Steve Rukavina and Father Thomas Loucks. Soon, the center will have room for five more priests. (Photo courtesy of Juliet Jones/St. John Vianney Center)
By Gene Fadness
When Father Enrique Terriquez moved into the Saint John Vianney Retirement Center for Priests nearly 10 years ago, he was the first full-time resident. Now, there are seven others who live with him and, in the next few months, he’s hoping for five more.
The Diocese of Boise is expanding the retirement center from its current eight apartments to 13, with five new apartments planned for the northwest and southwest corners of the center that is on the Nazareth Retreat Center property near the intersection of Five Mile Road and MacMillan Road in northwest Boise.
In addition to the apartments, there will also be additional parking space and a guest room for overnight guests. The approximate $2 million expansion will add about 8,700 square-feet to the existing 16,400 square-foot facility.
Before they retire, priests spend most their lives living in homes owned by the parishes they serve. Very few own their own homes. “So when they get to retirement age, they don’t have the equity built up in a home that most others accumulate over a lifetime,” said Bishop Peter Christensen.
“Priests are upsizing about the same time lay people are downsizing. Many priests have never owned a home and are considering purchasing for the first time at age 75,” said Father Gerald Funke, pastor at St. Agnes in Weiser, in a 2011 Idaho Catholic Register story at the time the center opened.
Monsignor Joe da Silva, pastor at Risen Christ Parish in Boise, was on the ground floor of planning the retirement center when he was Vicar General for Clergy for the Diocese. He remembers well the living conditions of some of his fellow priests.
“Some lived in conditions that you wouldn’t want to wish on anyone,” Monsignor da Silva said. “One lived in a trailer not too far from the current retirement center that, had not a priest been living there, should have been burned to the ground. I mean it was horrendous.”
He recalls another priest who lived in a rural Idaho community. “Not only was the condition of the housing sad, but so also was the sense of aloneness,” Monsignor da Silva said.
The current center addresses both those issues, providing priests with a modern, clean home and community with fellow priests.
“Entering retirement after years of parish ministry, I faced challenges of having to secure housing and covering all of the cost of living on my own for the first time in years,” said Father Tom Loucks.
More than a place to lay one’s head at night, the St. John Vianney Center offers companionship at the week night dinners and fellowship in the Holy Spirit Chapel.
“Right away, you experience that you are not on your own, that you are being cared for,” Father Terriquez said. The center is not an assisted living facility, but offers independent living to priests in a place where they can quickly get medical attention if needed.
Each priest’s apartment is about 1,100-square feet and has two bedrooms in case the priest has a family member or friend visiting. Most priests use that extra room as an office, as many are still active in ministry, though COVID has temporarily slowed their activity. While each unit has its own kitchenette, there is also a community dining room where the much-beloved chef, Erika Flahiff-McLeod, prepares a meal each week night.
“We priests can participate in some communal living while still having our own private space,” said Father Loucks who has lived there nearly seven years.
Father Terriquez said all the priests are “mindful that the aging process seems to be accelerating more,” so they appreciate the care and well-balanced meals. “But, above all, our priestly fraternity has a special place in this house,” he said.
By the time the priests reach retirement age, fellow priests may be the only family they have nearby. Father Terriquez has not lived in his native Mexico for more than 30 years ago. Father Joseph Muha is originally from Pennsylvania, so does not have family members close by.
Juliet Jones has been the director at the center for several years. “My heart soars when I come upon dinner time and can hear the table conversation, dishes clinking, beverages being poured and a prayer of thanksgiving at the end of the meal,” Jones said. “It is the sense of, ‘Ah, this is what home looks like.’ ”
The Diocese is hoping to raise much of the cost of the expansion from contributions from those who love our retired priests, above and beyond what people would normally give to the Idaho Catholic Appeal, which launched on Ash Wednesday.
“The expansion and renovation of St. John Vianney Retirement Center is an opportunity to support a special building project that is separate from our annual Idaho Catholic Appeal,” said Margaret Hampton, development coordinator for the Diocese. “History has shown that Idaho Catholics are very generous. We hope parishioners will continue to support the ICA, which also helps our retired priests and provides for seminarian vocations, while also considering the St. John Vianney project if they are in a position to provide additional support.”
The priests who live there pay about $800 per month in rent. “Our individual cost of living is very, very reasonable,” said Father Roger LaChance. “Thanks to all those who have made this retirement center possible for us, as a safe place to live and share with fellow priests,” he said. “I wonder what life would be like for us if there was no St. John Vianney Center. I do fear health would be jeopardized.”
“For many of us, our homes are the last place we will physically be before we pass from this life to the next,” Jones said. “Home is a sacred place, and I desire each priest to know and feel that they are cared for and appreciated in a special way here. Each priest has given their lives to God in service for each of us. It is our gift back to them.”
Here’s how to donate
Those wanting to donate to the St. John Vianney Retirement Center expansion project can do so by sending a check to the Diocese of Boise, 1500 S. Federal Way, Suite 400, Boise, ID, 83705. Please indicate on the memo line that the donation is for the St. John Vianney Retirement Center, or SJVRC.
If you enjoyed this story and would like to read more like it, please consider buying a subscription to the Idaho Catholic Register. Your $20 yearly subscription also supports the work of the Diocese of Boise Communications Department, which includes not only the newspaper, but this website, social media posts and videos. You can subscribe here, or through your parish, or send a check to 1501 S. Federal Way, Boise, ID, 83705: or call 208-350-7554 to leave a credit card payment. Thank you, and God bless you.