Bishop Emeritus William G. Curlin of the Diocese of Charlotte, N.C., hasn’t had a week off since he retired 10 years ago, unless you count his 20 trips accompanying the sick and suffering to Lourdes. 

“I just finished 20 confirmations and signed up for 20 more,” he said. “I spend a lot of time visiting the sick and the dying, and I go into nursing homes and hospitals almost daily.” 

Bishop Curlin, 85, is one of 178 retired bishops in the United States. While some have slowed down because of advanced age or health issues, many continue pastoral work, find deeper prayer lives and have time for personal interests. 

“I remember when bishops didn’t retire at all,” he said. “There wasn’t an age limit and they just stayed on until they fulfilled their work.” 

In 1966, Pope Paul VI set 75 as the retirement age for bishops. Under Church law, when a bishop reaches 75, he submits his resignation to the Vatican but can’t step down until the pope gives his approval.

Bishop Curlin, ordained to the priesthood in 1957, has always been drawn to serving the sick and the vulnerable. When he was a seminarian, the Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, whom he knew, told him that part of ministering to the sick was just listening. Through his work in soup kitchens and shelters in the 1970s, he became friends with now Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta and was inspired to found homes for the poor, the homeless and people with AIDS and other terminal illnesses. 

Bishop Curlin now lives in a house with two Chihuahuas, Missy and Cindy. “I have always been busy and happy, and it’s been a wonderful life, ” he said. “I can’t imagine not being happy if you put your heart into it. God has been very good to me.” 

A lifetime of service

Bishop Emeritus Andrew Joseph McDonald, 89, was ordained in 1948 and was bishop of the Diocese of Little Rock, Ark., from 1972 to 2000. He also was a friend of Blessed Mother Teresa, who came to Little Rock in 1982 to open a home for single mothers. It was one of the greatest moments of his priesthood, he said. 

He initially moved into a home for retired priests and filled in with pastoral needs. Two years later, he became chaplain of the St. Joseph Home for the Elderly in Palatine, Ill., run by the Little Sisters of the Poor. He still serves that role. 

His days begin with private prayer in the chapel, breakfast, time to polish his homilies, and Mass at 11. About 50 attend every day. 

“It’s very important for me to be available to offer their daily Mass,” he said. “I call on those who can’t make it, and I anoint them when they are sick or dying. Since just about all who pass at this home are buried from here, I celebrate the Mass of Christian burial.” 

Bishop McDonald’s life has been blessed, he said, from having “a good mother and father” who raised 12 children (four were nuns) to being able to serve parishes and the diocese. 

“Now I have leisure time to prepare my homilies and I really appreciate the opportunity to be available to the people here,” he said.

An evangelist’s heart

Through most of his priesthood, Bishop Emeritus Anthony G. Bosco, 85, of the Diocese of Greensburg, Pa., used the media for evangelization. He collaborated with a Pittsburgh radio station for coverage of the Second Vatican Council, hosted a TV program, provided commentary on a diocesan radio station and wrote a column for its newspaper. Later, his public email address gave him instant feedback from his flock. 

He was bishop from 1987 to 2004. Until three years ago, he taught courses at Seton Hill University in Greensburg and now is a facilitator for the Virtual Learning Community of Faith Formation at the University of Dayton, Ohio. He fills in at Blessed Sacrament Cathedral and leads biweekly Bible studies at his home that he shares with his West Highland terrier, Joshua II. He celebrates daily Mass, cooks for himself, plays the piano and has more time to devote to his prayer life. 

“I don’t have administration obligations and there are no meetings,” he said. “I’m carrying out my priestly vocation as I envisioned it in the seminary with the parish priests as my wonderful role models.” 

Bishop Bosco led his diocese through growth in faith formation and education, through a major capital campaign and through its Jubilee Year 2000. He is active in the local community and has received several awards for his service. 

“One thing I miss is writing my weekly column,” he said. “It was a good way to get a message across to the people, sort of like a modern day St. Paul. I was writing to my people, and I miss that.” 

A mercy ministry

Bishop Emeritus Francis A. Quinn led the Diocese of Sacramento, Calif., from 1980 to 1994, then went to Tucson, Ariz., to minister on two Native American reservations where the churches were mere lean-tos. 

“I felt very healthy and wanted to keep up ministry,” he said. “Then I felt I was getting old, so I came back in 2007.” 

Bishop Quinn, 94, lives at the Mercy McMahan Terrace in Sacramento, an assisted living facility run by the Sisters of Mercy. He celebrates daily Mass in his room, prays the breviary, anoints the sick, and counsels residents who come to him. 

“It’s sort of like being a pastor where all the parishioners live in the rectory,” he joked. “My day is full, and I sometimes wonder how I had time to have a job.” 

He once taught high school and was assistant superintendent, was editor of the diocesan newspaper, and after retirement, wrote a novel. The highlight of his service as bishop, he said, was “the beautiful collaboration of the clergy, religious and laity. 

“Being a parish priest was the best of all,” he said. “Looking back, it was a very fulfilling life.” 

The beauty of peace

Bishop Emeritus William K. Weigand, 75, also of Sacramento, received a living donor liver transplant in 2005 and took an early retirement four years ago to take care of his health. 

“My doctor told me to get more rest, eat healthfully and get lots of exercise,” he said. “I’ve done better than many who had transplants, in part because I stepped down (as bishop) and have been able to follow those directions.” 

Bishop Weigand was ordained in 1963, became bishop of the Diocese of Salt Lake City, Utah, in 1980, then Sacramento in 1993. He retired to a small house near the pastoral center and fills in for other priests, conducts funerals, has 31 confirmations scheduled, and attends diocesan events. 

“The most significant change is that I had a great longing for a more contemplative lifestyle and that really marks my life now,” he said. 

He finds quietude working in his flower and vegetable gardens, on bike trails and when he walks his Cavalier King Charles spaniel, Rubio. About twice a month, the two head for the High Sierras in a camping trailer, or go fishing in Monterey Bay. Sometimes they meet up with his brother Bob and his wife Pam, or other family members. They also camp with Dan Haverty (and his wife), the Sacramento firefighter who was the transplant donor. 

“I enjoy just sitting, praying and admiring the sunsets on the bay and the beautiful mountain scenery,” Bishop Weigand said. “This really ties in with a contemplative lifestyle.”

Maryann Gogniat Eidemiller writes from Pennsylvania.