St. Joan of Arc seniors share wisdom with parish, community

| Susan Klemond | September 22, 2016 | 0 Comments

Patsy Jones came prepared to hear about new library resources at a Sept. 12 senior workshop at St. Joan of Arc in Minneapolis, but she was also thinking about trees — and the parish’s SAGES senior ministry that sponsored the event.

“It did start like planting a tree and has grown large and strong with many branches to reach out with shelter, beauty and nourishment to the people it serves,” said Jones, 86, who has been a St. Joan of Arc parishioner and SAGES member for five years. “It’s just a group of very dedicated people who are there to serve others, and in serving others we benefit ourselves.”

Marie Thielen

Marie Thielen

About one-third of St. Joan of Arc parishioners are 65 or older. Jones joined about 25 other seniors of various ages and backgrounds at the afternoon workshop led by librarians and fellow parishioners Melissa Brechon and Ken Beringer. The monthly SAGES informational workshops, including a popular series on life transitions, are an important part of parish life and one way SAGES Ministry members share their wisdom and experience with seniors, the parish and broader community.

The ministry’s name, SAGES, represents that wisdom, along with St. Joan of Arc’s commitment to social justice, in which many members have long been involved. They contribute their time, expertise and passion through the workshops — which are growing in attendance — as well as supporting each other.

Members “hear something, or get excited about it and bring it to SAGES, and usually SAGES says, ‘Yes, let’s find the time to do it and find somebody to do it,’” said Mark Scannell, SAGES co-chair. “That’s been the impetus, spirit and energy of SAGES.”

Shared interests

The inspiration for starting the ministry came during a chance meeting in 2007. As Scannell, 73, was walking around Lake Harriet in Minneapolis, he encountered a St. Joan of Arc parishioner he’d seen but never met. He kept walking and met the same man on the other side of the lake. They started talking and discovered both were close to retirement and were interested in a parish ministry for retired people.

They talked about the idea and brought it to the parish. Parishioners responded to the idea and began meeting in 2008, said Marie Thielen, 80, SAGES co-chair, who had just stopped working full-time at that point. About 15 people still meet monthly to share learning and spiritual growth, and to plan programs. SAGES’ goals are not only developing ways to share wisdom across generations, but also to connect people who share similar values and expand collaboration with other ministries.

Each year, SAGES presents 10 monthly workshops offering social time and dialogue on topics including gun control and homelessness, along with lighter fare like ordinary grace and Twin Cities’ best food. Members sometimes lead the workshops, which often draw about 40 seniors and others, Thielen said.

Each spring, they offer their best attended workshops, called Life Transitions, bringing in experts on topics of wills and estate planning; health care directives; hospice and palliative care; and funeral planning. The workshops attract people of different ages, she said.

Father Jim DeBruycker, St. Joan of Arc pastor, described the workshops as informative and addressing “really practical things that people need to know about.”

Ministry members invite parishioners and other South Minneapolis churches to the workshops and cover the costs with free-will offerings. Most SAGE members and workshop attendees are in their 60s and 70s, but some are older, Thielen said.

A greater purpose

SAGES reflects St. Joan of Arc parish’s goal of being a presence in the Church that invites people to share their talents, Scannell said, adding that the parish also integrates Church teaching with world events.

Said Father DeBruycker, “St. Joan of Arc’s clarion call is justice, and I know that [SAGES members] look at this as ‘How are we not only taking care of our fellow parishioners, but [also] how are we making sure people know what their rights are and what’s available.’”

Some SAGES members have been active leaders both in the parish and the professional world, and are respected by parishioners, he said.

Younger people see the seniors’ involvement, Thielen said.

“It gives them something to think about: ‘When I retire from my job, I know there’s something for me here I can do,” she said.

Jones said she has benefited spiritually and intellectually and has been enriched through associating with SAGES members.

Dennis Callahan, a 73-year-old parishioner, has attended SAGES workshops for the past year for the socializing and workshop topics.

“I always think of a sage person as a wise old man,” he said. “It implies that we’re thoughtful and interested in serious topics.”

Some SAGES members have shared that wisdom with St. Joan of Arc’s youth, forming friendships during shared experiences such as the parish’s annual intergenerational trip to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, said Donelle Poling, 43, youth ministry director. Seniors are often “listening, caring persons to companion [youth] on their faith journey,” she said. “It’s part of the big community.”

SAGES members and other seniors help young people form their faith, Poling said.

“It is just gold in terms of another person to say, ‘This is what faith life looks like, and here’s what I’ve experienced,’” he said. “With every struggle and joy together, trust is built up on these trips. You see good people trying to live out their faith in different ways, not just on Sunday morning.”

More information about SAGES

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Category: Retirement Planning