A pastor retires: Looking back on 46 years of 'the best job in the Catholic Church'

Published: Friday, Aug. 2 2013 5:00 a.m. MDT

Monsignor Terence Moore celebrates Mass at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Draper, Tuesday, July 30, 2013.

Ravell Call, Deseret News

DRAPER, Utah — You can still hear his native Ireland in the voice of Monsignor Terence Moore.

Even though he has lived in Utah for 46 of his 70 years, there’s enough of the small village of Ballyfin, County Laois, in his voice that his smiling “Good morning!” is more than a mere greeting — it is also your first clue that you’re talking to a born and bred Irish Catholic, saints be praised.

“I can’t help it,” he says with a smidgen of the brogue, sitting in his tidy, unpretentious office in St. John the Baptist Catholic parish, right next to Juan Diego Catholic High School. “I was born and raised on a farm there. It gets in your blood.”

For all of his Irish, however, Msgr. Moore has become so firmly engrained in Utah’s Catholic community that when he announced his retirement back in February — the same week, coincidentally, that Pope Benedict XVI announced his retirement in Rome — students at Juan Diego were feeling a little overwhelmed by the impending loss of both their Pope and their priest.

“One kid came up to me and asked to see my cell phone,” Msgr. Moore said, chuckling at the memory. “He said he wanted to see if I had the Pope on speed dial. I told him, ‘Oh yeah, Pope Bene and I tweet each other all the time!’”

Although Pope Benedict’s retirement was official at the end of February, Msgr. Moore’s retirement is official this weekend. He’ll conduct the Saturday evening mass and two Sunday masses, and then he’ll turn the reins of St. John the Baptist parish over to someone else — something to which he openly acknowledges he’s looking forward.

“Night meetings and fundraising,” he says quickly when asked what he’ll be glad to say goodbye to. “You’re always fundraising when you’re working for the church. At one point in my career I was doing so much of it I noticed that people started ducking me when they saw me. They didn’t want me to hit them up for cash.”

As a retired priest he’ll continue to officiate at weddings and funerals — “all the real priestly stuff, I’ll continue to do,” he said. “We never retire from being a priest,” he explained. “We just retire from all the administrative assignments. Otherwise, we help out as we are able, especially when priests are sick or on vacation. But I won’t be asking anyone for money. I’m excited about that.”

As if on cue his cell phone rings and he excuses himself to take the call. A parishioner is concerned about the timing of a funeral for a loved one and wants to be sure Msgr. Moore can be there to officiate.

“I’ve been part of this community for so long, some people can’t imagine having a wedding or a funeral or a baptism without having me there,” he said. “And I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Being a pastor, he said, is “the best job in the Catholic Church.”

“You can be a priest and have a lot of different jobs — being a university professor, running a hospital, being involved with social services,” said Msgr. Moore. “But for me, the most satisfying role is to be a pastor. You’re involved with people in their everyday lives. You’re with them when they are baptizing their babies, preparing for marriage, taking their first communion, getting them ready for confirmation and when they are dying, you’re the first person they call to be there.

“You get to be with people at so many significant points in their lives,” he continued. “They put so much trust in you. It’s so humbling. As priests, we’re just made of clay ourselves, but we get to be part of people’s family life in that way. It’s just a wonderful privilege.”

It's also one that he has chosen for himself several times during the course of the past 46 years.

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