THE most senior Catholic priest in Sutherland Shire will take leave of his parish of Caringbah early next year.
On the eve of turning 80, Monsignor Kerry Bayada will have served the parishioners at Our Lady of Fatima for the past 30 years.
"I'm having trouble keeping up the energy and enthusiasm (to continue with priestly duties)," he said.
He set out on the road to priestly studies at 13 when he entered a junior seminary.
During the 54 years since his ordination by Cardinal Gilroy in St Mary's Cathedral in 1960 he has worked in numerous Sydney parishes.
Monsignor Bayada hadn't intended announcing his impending retirement so early but there were so many rumours about it that he recently decided to let parishioners know.
He is the first to agree that the Caringbah parish is much changed in the years since he began ministering there.
"Some of the people I used to see have either stopped coming to church or have moved away, it is a sad thing that the numbers have decreased over the years," he said.
"I'd love to know the answer to the falling numbers."
Monsignor Bayada said that undoubtedly the scandals around sexual abuse had shaken some people's faith.
Now there were strict rules about the likes of Sydney priests getting clearance to venture into other diocese to officiate at, for instance, a relative's baptism or wedding.
He finishes his active ministry grateful to the generosity of people.
Monsignor Bayada said it was a privilege for people to call upon him at times of death or other crisis.
He intends to live next year at Calvary Retirement Community, Ryde.
What age do you think is the right one for clergy to retire?