Regina Cleri celebrates 60 years of caring for archdiocese's priests

BOSTON -- To Father Bryan Parrish, former vicar for clergy of the Archdiocese of Boston, Regina Cleri is holy ground. Established in 1964 by Cardinal Richard Cushing, the residence for the Archdiocese of Boston's senior priests holds such significance for Father Parrish, not because of the building itself, but because of the priests who live there.

"They were instruments of the Lord's grace in so many ways," Father Parrish said at a celebration of Regina Cleri's 60th anniversary on June 13. "Each of those 60 priests have just touched countless individuals and families, and it's really overwhelming to think about."

Regina Cleri is currently home to 65 priests, the highest number in the residence's history.

"This really is a spiritual and a fraternal community," Father Parrish said, "where men dedicated their entire lives to the service of the church and continue their vocation and to live with their brothers."

The highlight of the celebration was the dedication of a plaque bearing the words of Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley: "Regina Cleri is not just a home for our senior priests. It is a community of prayer, fellowship, and fraternity."

"It's surely something that Cardinal Cushing would be proud of," said Bishop Robert Hennessey, who blessed the plaque. "His vision has been realized, and the senior priests in the Archdiocese of Boston continue to be blessed by him in so many ways."

Bishop Hennessey shared Cardinal O'Malley's regrets that he could not attend the celebration.

"Cardinal Seán has a special love for senior priests," Bishop Hennessey said.

Father Frank Daly gave remarks on behalf of his fellow Regina Cleri residents. He came to Regina Cleri in March 2023 and considers it to be "one of the more vibrant and interesting places in the archdiocese."

He compared the residence to a monastery, where senior priests eat together, pray together, deliver the Eucharist to those who cannot leave their rooms, and offer pastoral care to one another.

"Age may weaken the body and limit activity," he said, "but it strengthens the soul and provides time to contemplate the great mysteries of our faith. We take special consolation in the promise: 'And remember, I am with you always, until the end of the age.'"

Senior priests at Regina Cleri routinely leave the residence to aid in the formation of parish priests, he said.

"You, the people of God in our parishes, accompany us on our journey," Father Daly said.

He also said the senior priests keep up to date on what is happening in the church, reading and discussing books and articles.

"We are all brothers, with all the differences that interesting quote-unquote 'brothers' have," Father Daly said. "Our community is a mellow and relaxed one. Care and concern for each other is not a happenstance. It's integral to who we are."

In his remarks, Clergy Trust Board of Trustees Chairman Mark Vachon doubted that a place like Regina Cleri exists anywhere else in the U.S., or beyond.

"There's a lot of ways that Clergy Trust differs from the norm in how we take care of our priests," he said, "but I am genuinely proud of this place and all that we have been able to do."

He said that Regina Cleri is special because it allows a priest to continue his vocation for the rest of his life.

"It's always incredible for me to look at the back of the heads of the priests and calculate the pastoral capacity that's been delivered over their lifetimes," Vachon said. "It's incredibly special. And so, whether you're celebrating Mass in the chapel, doing hospital visits, traveling to celebrate Mass in parishes, sitting on nonprofit boards, serving our ministry communities, your capacity here continues, and it's special."

Vachon gave special thanks to Regina Cleri Executive Director Stephen Gust, who has worked at the residence for 30 years. He was appointed to be Regina Cleri's first lay director in 2009.

"Like the priests he cares for, this is not a job for Stephen," Vachon said. "It really is a vocation."

Gust extended his gratitude to Vachon, the senior priests, and the directors who came before him and "paved the road."

"What makes Regina Cleri so special?" Gust asked. "It's not the building and the grounds we sit on, but it's a team of employees who take care of our priests."

At Regina Cleri, he explained, there is a sort of mantra that is posted all over the building: "Every encounter should be a positive emotional experience for our priests."

"I believe that is what makes this place so special," Gust said. "That we focus on our residents and that our staff treats our men like a family."

He concluded his remarks by acknowledging the Sister Disciples of the Divine Master, who serve senior priests at Regina Cleri. Gust said that the sisters' "presence and impact are difficult to put into words."

"They are advocates for our priests," he said, "attending doctor's appointments, visiting the priests in the hospital, even if it's at 3 a.m., and visiting them in the emergency room. The sisters pray with priests preparing to go home to God and pray with priests when they're sick and just need somebody to be with. These moments cannot be appreciated and recognized in words. They are truly doing God's work."

The sisters worked throughout the pandemic, delivering the Eucharist and three meals daily to all of the senior priests in their rooms.

"They did it every day without complaint, and immense joy and compassion," Gust said. "They never left the facility because they wanted to make sure they were here for our priests."

The sisters received a standing ovation.

After the ceremonies, those at the celebration got to enjoy a cake shaped like Regina Cleri.