Father Vail celebrates Mass at Holy Family parish last Advent.
Father Vail celebrates Mass at Holy Family parish last Advent.
Although Rev. Thomas Vail retired from active ministry 20 years ago, he continued to help out at parishes around the Albany Diocese when needed. He said he could be found "whenever people called me" in churches in Albany, Saratoga and Herkimer County.

In fact, he loved his first "retirement" so much that he has decided to do it again - this time, a little more fully.

"I turned 85 in January," he told The Evangelist. "I felt it was finally time to step aside totally."

A native of Little Falls and a priest for 60 years, Father Vail looks back on a rewarding life in ministry.

"I was very fortunate," he said of his vocation. "I studied in Rome for two years and taught at Mater Christi Seminary [in Albany] for 16 years. Then I was secretary to Bishop [Edwin] Broderick for five years, and then a pastor."

Assigned to parishes in Gloversville, Rotterdam and Saratoga Springs, he said he "enjoyed every minute" of active ministry.

Retirement #1
On the occasion of his first retirement 20 years ago, he told The Evangelist, "I have been blessed in so many ways. I shall always be grateful to the Lord for His goodness, and to my family, friends and parishioners for their kindness and support over the years."

Father Vail has spent the last two decades living in the house he grew up in in Little Falls.

"I moved back to my hometown," he said. "I have two sisters who live nearby with their families. It's better than a condo in Florida, where I would have known no one."

Besides, the priest said, "I figured I could still be of service. I was in good health, and so many pastors now serve in more than one parish. I took every opportunity to say Mass and help people."

He has spent time helping out in churches in Little Falls, Herkimer, Dolgeville and Newport.

Consider priests
As he looks at the burdens on contemporary priests, Father Vail wonders how they cope with what's required to run more than one parish.

"They are spread pretty thin," he observed. "It can be very stressful for them. Parishioners have to pitch in to release them from some of their administrative responsibilities."

Parishioners "also have to realize that priests who are in charge of two parishes have to run back and forth all the time, keep two sets of books and deal with two parish councils. They spend half their time on the road."

Father Vail worries that "parishioners [at one parish] don't realize the demands on priests, especially the demands on him by the other parish."

Care for self
As for overworked priests, he cautions them "to learn to share their tasks to take the stress off. People will help them if asked. [Priests] also need to take time off, go on vacations and keep up friendships with other priests. An active prayer life is also very important."

As a double-retiree of sorts, Father Vail advises laypeople to "look to the future while you're working. Make sure you can support yourself. Set aside something every month."

Those who don't, he warned, "will become very anxious" about not having enough money to take care of their needs after their work life.

"Plan it out very carefully," he advised. "Provide for the future."