Memory is necessary for growth: “Recall the former days” (Heb 10:32). Listening to the elderly tell their stories is good for children and young people; it makes them feel connected to the living history of their families, their neighbourhoods and their country. A family that fails to respect and cherish its grandparents, who are its living memory, is already in decline, whereas a family that remembers has a future. (Pope Francis Amoris Laetitia 192)
CatholicCare – Seniors Support
How to Set Up a Seniors Ministry in Your Parish
All you need to get a seniors’ ministry going in your parish is a vision and a desire to do so. To kick start this process it’s a good idea to ask all relevant people, from the parish priest to the parishioners themselves, the following question:
- Who are the seniors in our parish?
- What do our seniors want to achieve in the parish?
- Do they have self-identified needs?
- Where do they feel they need assistance?
- Once you ask these questions you will find that a lot of good ideas will flow into concrete actions.
Have a try at the following:
- Parish ministry recruitment drives
- New parishioners’ registration cards
- Direct approach
- Asking parishioners to suggest names of those gifted in this area
- Advertisements in your parish bulletin and on the parish website
Spirituality for Seniors
What is life about? What is deeply important and sacred as we grow older?
Spirituality is about the search for that which gives life and deep meaning for us.
In a world so centred on youth, there are few who see mature age as a gift.
Spirituality is our relationship with others as well as with God
Celebrating Seniors in your Parish
Everyone in this world, no matter their race colour or creed, has a date to celebrate every year. Everyone has a birthday!
Seniors often have been married for many years. Significant anniversary blessings are an excellent way to celebrate with seniors.
Grandparent’s day is a wonderful opportunity that all the family can celebrate as well along with parish communities.
Take some time to reflect on the wonderful wisdom that Grandparents contribute to their own families, the parish community, and society at large.
Very often it is grandparents who ensure that the most important values are passed down to their grandchildren, and “many people can testify that they owe their initiation into the Christian life to their grandparents”. Their words, their affection or simply their presence help children to realize that history did not begin with them, that they are now part of an age-old pilgrimage and that they need to respect all that came before them. (Pope Francis Amoris Laetitia 192)
Grandparents provide memories
Memories help us to understand who we are. For most families, grandparents are the ‘Central Bank of Memories’. Grandchildren never tire of hearing stories about their own parents when they were children. “My brother died young, leaving a large family. When we come together at family gatherings the hunger for memories of their father is obvious”
Grandparents see the inner beauty of the grandchild
To a grandparent, each grandchild is a wonderful mystery. Other people may look and see a pimply little child but the grandparent sees someone unique, special and loveable.
Grandparents are often strong witnesses to the faith
Nowhere is their presence more important than in passing on the faith. This is most obvious at special faith events such as First Communion. More often, this witness is expressed through small family rituals such as grace before meals, the reading of bible stories, celebrating patron saint feast days and offering to pray for their special concerns. There are many resources, including websites, that offer ideas for family rituals and many of these are ideally suited to grandparents. “I remember when I used to stay with my grandparents when I was 12. They used to always say the rosary in bed before they went to sleep. It seemed to me they would say it extra loud so that I would hear! But it had a big impression on me.” (James, aged 19)
Grandparents benefit too. It’s a two-way street!
To young children, their grandparents are simply beautiful and they tell them so; they don’t seem to notice the wrinkles and sagging skin. As one grandfather said, “They even laugh at my jokes!” So both generations are helped to see themselves as God sees us – loveable, good and made in his image.
Grandparenting can also involve deep suffering and heavy sacrifices.
The deepest hurts can come when we love most deeply. Grandparenting can involve hurtful separation, unfulfilled dreams. The inability to pass on the values we hold dearest can be a source of deep distress and a sense of helplessness when it seems that all one can do is to stand, like Mary and John at the foot of the Cross.
Grandparents help wellbeing
British research from Oxford University showed that grandparents who are involved in the upbringing of their grandchildren contribute to the child’s wellbeing. Professor Ann Buchanan said: “Grandparents who got stuck in and did things with their grandchildren had this positive impact on their grandchildren.” (from National Seniors Australia ‘Connect’ newsletter).
“The educational task of grandparents is always very important, and it becomes even more so when, for different reasons, the parents are not able to ensure an adequate presence to their children. May the Virgin Mary, who learned to read sacred Scriptures at the knee of her mother, Anne, help grandparents to always nourish their faith and hope at the font of the Word of God.” (Pope Benedict XVI on the Feast Day of Joachim and Anne, grandparents of Jesus).
Grandparents are ‘significant other adults’ in the lives of grandchildren
Their support starts at the most elementary level of presence – babysitting, shopping, helping with homework and sporting activities. In Australia, nearly one fifth of grandparents are engaged in caring for grandchildren for an average of about 12 hours per week - a high percentage considering the common limitations of geographical distance or poor health.
Communion to the Sick and Housebound
The sick and elderly are sometimes prevented from celebrating the Mass with the rest of the parish community. It is during these times that other members of the parish community are able to bring communion to them, and so reunite them sacramentally to the Lord. They are also reunited with the Eucharistic community from which illness had separated them.
Visitation of the Sick and Elderly
There are many parishioners who are isolated from their parish community by reason of sickness or age. Social visits from other parishioners bringing companionship and a listening ear can be a very welcome diversion for the housebound.
Information and resources for grandparents