On his last day as archbishop, Martin Currie reflects on life of loneliness and devotion

His birthday triggers his retirement, after more than 50 years in the priesthood.

His replacement has yet to be announced, but a decision is expected soon

Martin Currie is archbishop of the Archdiocese of St. John's. (Sherry Vivian/CBC)

Archbishop Martin Currie is 75 today, but the celebration marks more than getting another year older — his birthday triggers his retirement, after more than 50 years in the priesthood.

"First when I retire, I'm just going to take some downtime for myself," Currie told The St. John's Morning Show.

The leader of the Roman Catholic church in St. John's said he plans to move home to Nova Scotia to be close to family.

I knew they were all going home to their families, and I'd go home and sit down under a Christmas tree by myself.- Martin Currie

As Currie and the church part ways, a replacement is set to be announced.

Currie, seen here in 2011, is looking forward to moving to a new chapter in his life as he celebrates his 75th birthday — and his last day on the job. (CBC)

Currie was ordained in 1968 in Halifax, a period of intense social change in the world. He hoped the church would change, too, to include more women and remove the mandatory vow of celibacy.

"The biggest problem for me has been the loneliness of the life," Currie said, recalling a time when he worked as a priest in Lunenburg​, N.S.

"On Christmas Eve, I'd go to the church and I'd wave goodbye to everybody and wish them a Merry Christmas. I knew they were all going home to their families, and I'd go home and sit down under a Christmas tree by myself."

Abuse in the Catholic Church

After more than a decade as the archbishop of the Archdiocese of St. John's, Currie has been in the middle of ongoing discussions on abuse within the Catholic church.

In September, he sent a letter to parishioners apologizing to sexual abuse survivors, and asking churchgoers to stick with the church.

"I've met with a number of victims and tried to do the best I can, but it's a difficult, painful situation that's still ongoing."

Through his career, Currie said he tried to always be on the side of the poor, and spent five years in Peru.

Currie is pictured here as a young teen growing up in Sheet Harbour, N.S. (CBC)

"To live and work with people who are truly poor under military regime, it opens your eyes to a different concept of church. A different concept of a loving God."

Closer to home, Currie battled with keeping the church relevant and parishioners dedicated to attending service.

Listen to Martin Currie's interview with the St. John's Morning Show:

After a half-century in the priesthood, Archbishop Martin Currie prepares to say goodbye. The leader of the Roman Catholic church in St. John's joins Krissy in-studio for a farewell interview. 12:39

He sought new ways to keep the gospel alive in younger generations, while trying to address the physical needs of the towering cathedral on Military Road.

He estimates about 50 per cent of people regularly attended church when he started as a priest.. 

As he looks into the pews at the Basilica Cathedral in St. John's, more than half a century later, that number has dwindled to about 10 to 15 per cent, Currie said. 

For now, he can take a break, from the good — and the bad — he's faced in the church. 

"I'll see what God calls me to," Currie said.

"I'll be available for weekend ministry and any other missions but I'll be free of the day-to-day thing, dealing with lawyers and problems."

Hear more highlights from The St. John's Morning Show

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from The St. John's Morning Show

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