Eighty-one-year-old Msgr. Gene Frilot, sitting next to him at the round banquet table, was nodding. Fifty-six years a priest in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, a decade after his official retirement as pastor of Incarnation Parish in Glendale, he still celebrates Mass every day, hears confessions by appointment, along with a “little bit” of spiritual counseling. “And whatever else I can get involved in,” he added. “Help with religious education. I keep busy.”The same could be said for classmate Msgr. Al Hernandez. The 84-year-old priest lives at the Hollenbeck Palms in Boyle Heights. “The home is nonsectarian, so I fill in right there at the rest home because they have no priests,” said the retired pastor of St. Ignatius of Loyola Church, Highland Park. “I visit Catholic patients and when they’re critical I administer the last rites (which may include penance, anointing of the sick and Communion). So without leaving to go anywhere, I’m keeping busy. We’re just like a small community.”Not far away at the lunch for retired priests in the Cathedral Convention Center, Father Juan Romero, 72, was talking to his 75-year-old brother Father Gilbert Romero. The siblings share the special distinction of having a dad who became a Claretian Missionary after their mother, Claudia, died at the age of 58. José Tobias Romero was ordained in 1975, and died in 1996. When Father Juan, retired some six years, was asked what was his last parish, he half-grinned and said, “Well, I’m still working too hard. I want to get off the train,” before letting out a chuckle. “St. Louis of France in Cathedral City, Diocese of San Bernardino.”Big brother Father Gilbert retired a year after he had a stroke in 1999. At the time he headed up the Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs Office of the Los Angeles Archdiocese. “But I feel a bit better now, so I’m helping out in different parishes around Long Beach,” he said. And the scholar, who holds a doctoral degree in Scripture studies, also continues to write articles and papers. “So when I finish this celebration today, I have to write a paper to be presented at the Catholic Biblical Association meeting in August,” he noted.  Some 70 senior priests attended the luncheon, along with Archbishop José Gomez and regional bishops on May 9. It was a time to honor their combined 3,500-plus years of service in the archdiocese, and also a chance to see old friends and reminisce about steadfastly living out the joys and trials of God’s call in Southern California.“Being a retired priest has been extremely good,” Father Iglesias told The Tidings. “Because I think I’ve been doing what I was called to do, and I’ve had tremendous fulfillment. I spent a lot of time preaching missions, and I even liked the administration part, too, as pastor of Santa Maria de Peredes in Pico Rivera for 10 years.”The priest, who grew up and was ordained in Spain, came to the United States in November 1956. He didn’t know a word of English. And the pastor of his first parish assignment at Holy Family Church in Wilmington promptly told him he’d better learn English ASAP. “So I came in November and on May 1 I was hearing all the kids’ confessions at the school,” he recalled. “So there have been many, many, many challenges. But it’s also been very good here. And my advice for any retired priest is he has to be active and moving to keep himself in good shape.”In his younger days, Msgr. Frilot liked fly fishing, but says he would be “washed away” in some of the streams he used to fish. “Today I like living at Incarnation Parish, where I was, and meeting all the people I know,” he said. “And being retired means not having any responsibilities over the mundane things --- the locks, the litter and the leaks. So it’s picking and choosing things that I like to do, celebrating Mass and hearing confessions.”Msgr. Hernandez agreed. “The joy of being a retired priest is that I’ve been able to continue my priesthood, saying Mass and administering the sacraments,” he said. “That’s what I was ordained for and I’m able to continue that. I mean, you retire from administration, but not from the priesthood.”Of his father following him and his brother into the priesthood, Father Juan Romero quipped, “Well, Mom had to die first,” before adding, “The family was good. Mom and Dad loved each other. And then his late vocation was special. He was a very pious man, unlike his sons.”Father Gilbert Romero taught in a seminary in Peru during a civil war with the Shining Path guerrillas and has been on archeological digs in Israel in the midst of fighting between Arabs and Israelis. Somebody once told him, “You must have a death wish.”But the priest, who celebrated his golden jubilee just yesterday, said it’s been a good life, and still is. “One of the things that has helped me a lot after my stroke is hearing confessions in English and Spanish,” he pointed out. “I like doing that very much, because it has opened my eyes more so than when I was a parish priest. Because when you’re in a parish you’re meeting deadlines. We’re free now from doing administrative work, but you’re never free from doing pastoral work.”{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2011/0513/retired/{/gallery}