Bishop Lyne Residence celebrates 10th year

By Daniel P. Smith | Contributor
Sunday, April 10, 2011

When Father James Moriarty retired from the priesthood in 1995 after 44 years serving the Archdiocese of Chicago, he faced a dilemma. He could: a.) remain at the St. Joan of Arc Parish rectory in Skokie, a reality he didn’t consider fair to the incoming pastor; b.) purchase his own private property, a difficult economic reality; or c.) move to a different parish rectory.

Moriarty elected to do the final option, confident he could still be of use to a parish community and its pastor. He landed at St. Pius X in Stickney and, over the next seven years, performed an array of priestly functions while living in a rectory bedroom.

In 2002, however, Moriarty’s arthritis made traveling to his second- floor bedroom a challenging task. Moriarty then faced a new dilemma: move to an assisted living facility, which he didn’t need, or the new Bishop Lyne Residence for retired priests in southwest suburban Palos Park, a welcome option that wasn’t available upon his retirement in 1995.

“Thank God for this place,” the 85-year-old Moriarty said of the Bishop Lyne Residence, which welcomed its first occupants on Feb. 19, 2001. “It’s given me and so many other retired priests the opportunity to live in a safe environment and enjoy retirement.”

Community living

For retired priests in the Archdiocese of Chicago, retirement brings its challenges on the home front. While some priests may return to their families and others might have inherited their parents’ home, most live independently in a private residence or move into church-owned facilities.

Since 2001, however, the Bishop Lyne Residence has offered a compelling alternative, one close to the priests’ spiritual roots and affording them an arrangement that provides independent living without financial challenges.

“In many ways, this brings them back to their seminary days,” Bishop Lyne Residence administrator Bobbi Magurany said of the facility’s retired priest residents. “They eat together, pray together and look out for one another.”

Named in honor of Bishop Timothy Lyne, the archdiocese’s longtime vicar for senior priests and advocate for retired clergy, the 18- unit residential facility provides handicap-accessible apartments with a bedroom, bathroom, living area and small kitchenette. Throughout its 10 years, the Lyne Residence has been at or near capacity; today, it hosts 16 occupants.

“A real benefit is that these priests are amongst people and not living alone, which provides safety as well as camaraderie,” said Magurany, whom the residents call the “Den Mom.”

Forest home

Nestled inside the woods of the Cook County Forest Preserve, the residence shares its campus with: the Holy Family Villa, a 99-patient nursing home; St. Francis Manor, an 81-unit residential complex offering affordable housing for independent seniors; and the Poor Clare Monastery, home to cloistered nuns.

The 500-acre property was first assembled by Lithuanian Charities, largely funded by money from Chicago’s Lithuanian parishes, and later passed onto Catholic Cemeteries. While plans for a cemetery were scratched and 50 acres given to Catholic Charities, archdiocesan leaders decided to build both a new Holy Family Villa and the Bishop Lyne Residence simultaneously.

Much like Moriarty, Father Michael Walsh faced the dilemma of where he might live following his 2001 retirement from Sacred Heart in Palos Hills. Though Walsh investigated condo living, the costs made that option financially prohibitive.

He soon learned of the Lyne Residence’s impending opening and jumped at the opportunity to be one of the complex’s first residents.

“I was so grateful the Bishop Lyne Residence opened because it provided the best option for me,” Walsh said. “I enjoy the companionship and support of my fellow priests.”

Like many of the residents, Walsh says Mass at local parishes, answers funeral and wedding requests from previous parishioners, and tends to other pastoral duties as requested. Still, he is able to find peace in retirement and a break from the strict time schedules that dominated his 45-year career.

“It’s a restful place and the best place for me,” Walsh said. For Moriarty, a native South Sider who spent his career in northern parishes, the Lyne Residence has allowed him to return to his roots.

“I’m back where I started,” he joked.