At the New York Clergy Laity Congress in 1996 the RCA Members discovered that there were at least 24 retired priests whose pension ranged from $150.00 to $425.00 dollars per month. This being way below the poverty level. Why were the pensions of these men so low? Was it because they neglected to contribute enough of their salary to the pension fund? Not at all. At that time the Archdiocese had no pension plan to speak of until 1973. The only plan that existed was GOMBA (Greek Orthodox Ministers Benevolent Association) which offered a maximum of $250.00 per month pension upon retirement! When the present excellent pension plan came into being in 1973 it were too late for them. They were now old, they received miserable salaries, and had very few years of coverage under it. Also, the new pension plan made no provision for them and the Archdiocese just forgot them. What were they to do?
As President, Fr. Gaines, wrote in the July 1997 Epistle, "The RCA immediately decided to increase the pensions of these brethren to at least $500 a month. This required about over $72,000.00 per year. It was presented to the Finance Committee of the Archdiocese at the Clergy-Laity in New York in 1996 for inclusion in the Archdiocesan Annual Budget. The answer from the Committee was that the money just was not there. Thus, the RCA decided to implement this. This great task of raising the necessary funds was given to Fr. Evagoras Constantinides. The Retired Clergy Association took it upon itself as a moral duty and obligation to remedy the situation.
An appeal was made in July of 1996 for everyone to help. By August 15, 1996, all 24 of them began to receive supplementary checks, boosting their pension to $500.00 per month. This went on until June 1997 when the Archdiocese then assumed the program. Then, in July 2002, the RCA discovered that four widowed presvyteres received no pension at all, two of them received $200.00 per month, and two $603.00 per month, and no one could help on a regular basis. It also realized that $500 per month was nowhere near enough to help. So, by unanimous vote, the Board decided to boost the pensions of the priests to $1,000 per month and those of the widows by $500.00 per month, beginning with December 2003.
To know that there are some 95 retired priests and widowed presvyteres who receive a pension of less than $1,000 per month, let alone that 15 of them cannot make ends meet, and as a Church we do nothing about it. "Even His Eminence the Archbishop himself expressed concern over the situation and he noted that, "Many retirees still lack the financial security they should have." The basic question, however, still remains. Why should the Church permit this situation even to emerge?
The situation is getting worse. We are running out of Funds. We have turned to Philoptochos and they do promise to help. From November 1st to July Clergy Laity Congress we must raise a minimum of $55,000.00. This great task of raising these funds was undertaken by the Treasurer, Father Nicholas Soteropoulos. After exposing the problem in the “Epistle” many Clergymen and Laymen immediately supported the project. The support received was great. We were able not only able to meet the challenge, but we also received a surplus which enable us to sent to the recipients Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter bonuses. As of January 2006 the Archdiocese assumed this responsibility of the Retired Clergy Benevolent Program. At that time the RCA submitted the balance of the funds that were collected which totaled over $45,000.00 so that the Archdiocese could initiate the program.
The Archdiocese is accepting tax exempt donations which can be sent to:
His Grace, Bishop Andonios,
Greek Orthodox Archdiocese,
Retired Clergy Benevolent Fund
8 East 79th Street, New York, NY 10075