Church offers services to give back to seniors

| Bishop Lee Piché | February 16, 2011 | 0 Comments

On the bulletin board in the kitchen at my parents’ home is a little cross-stitched sign that reads: “Growing Old is Not for Sissies.” As I watch my own parents rise to the challenges of aging, I can vouch for the truth of that saying.

While there are many blessings that come with old age, life certainly does not get any easier when one becomes a senior citizen. It takes courage and tenacity to face the obstacles and frustrations of old age.

As we see the pace of life get faster and faster, our seniors observe their own physical capacities slowing and diminishing. It’s more difficult to see, to hear and to move about.

In an age that places a high value on youthful strength and vitality, the temptation is to regard our loved ones who are aging as somehow personally “less” than they should be. Truth is, they are probably more in tune with where God wants them to be than the rest of us are.

At the beginning of this month, on Feb. 2, the church celebrated the beautiful feast of the Presentation of the Lord. The Gospel scene for that feast begins with a focus on the newborn Christ child, who is brought by his youthful mother, Mary, and foster-father, Joseph, to the Temple in Jerusalem.

Some would conclude that the feast is all about the child. But Luke’s vivid depiction soon turns our attention to two senior citizens: Simeon, an old man who was waiting for death, and Anna, who, at the age of 84, is delicately described as “advanced in years” (Luke 2:36). The feast is as much about the elderly and their faith as it is about the child.

Based on that Gospel, it is fair to say that our seniors have a unique and essential role in the unfolding of God’s plan of salvation. The wisdom gained through years of prayer and petition, the tempering of the will through their long and ardent longing for salvation, the patience to sit still and be present when the rest of the world is running around in pursuit of many things — are not these all the hallmarks of our senior Catholic faithful?

It is in our own best interest to give careful attention to our seniors, whose gifts to the church are im­mense.

Meeting seniors’ needs

Catholic Senior Services, about which you will hear more and more in the coming months, is an important part of the response of this local church in improving the attention we give to the needs of our seniors.

The growing demands for services occasioned by the aging of the “greatest generation” call for a better-coordinated response. We need to become increasingly more prudent, imaginative and cost-efficient in making available the necessary resources for adequate housing, health services, and physical and spiritual care along the whole spectrum of capacity, from assisted living to memory care, from transitional care to hospice care.

The current and future affiliates of CSS — senior care providers such as Saint Therese Homes, Catholic Elder­care, Franciscan Health Ser­vices, Saint Therese Southwest — are coming together in a coordinated relationship to improve and extend the opportunities for the physical and spiritual care of our Catholic seniors.

The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis has a deep interest in these initiatives, and, through CSS, hopes to provide better communication and cooperation between the various agencies so as to connect our seniors to the services they need more effectively and to assist our parishes in finding new ways to minister to our seniors.

Among the goals of CSS and its affiliates are increased availability of affordable home care, parish-based senior housing, education around the particular needs and challenges of the aging, support for parish nursing programs, attention to the sacramental and pastoral care needs of seniors, promotion of intergenerational programs for the strengthening of the family of this local church, and information and support for adult children and other caregivers of seniors.

Still in its infancy, CSS has a small staff of two. The executive director is Deacon Dan Gannon (a permanent deacon of the LaCrosse Wis. diocese), and the development director is Deacon Bill Heiman.

If you have an interest in knowing more about CSS, or would like to learn how you can support these efforts, contact us at (651) 290-1621 or on the Web at http://www.catholicseniorservices.org.

Working together, with the help of CSS, this archdiocese can do a great deal to assist our seniors in facing the many challenges of growing old, and in the process — by keeping them close to our worshipping communities, just as Simeon and Anna were constantly in the Temple — learn a great deal from their faith and wisdom.

Bishop Lee Piché is auxiliary bishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

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Category: Commentary, Spotlight