Ministry helps older adults not get lost in the parish community
Older adults can feel “invisible, diminished and forgotten” by society and even at times, their faith communities. So last year Sister of Providence Carole Kimes, with support from Father Ted Rothrock, pastor of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Carmel, Indiana, launched the “Silver Linings” ministry for “baby boomers and beyond.”
“This ministry aims to provide support to those who are aging into the second half of life by expanding, deepening and nurturing the spiritual dimensions of their lives. My hope is we can companion persons offering spiritual and grief support during various transitions in preparation for the final transition into eternal life,” Sister Carole said. “The ministry is always evolving as we learn more about those who are interested and what their needs and desires are.”
Sister Carole, who served as postulant director for the Sisters of Providence before ministering as a caregiver for her mom and dad in their final years, felt a strong nudge from Providence to evolve Silver Linings as a natural way for her to use her gifts as a spiritual companion and caregiver. “As we age, we all have the developmental task of figuring out our purpose and our legacy.”
In a parish bulletin article, Sister Carole told parishioners: “There comes a time in life when persons question their purpose and face challenges that create in them a hunger for God, community, and purpose. I hope this new ministry will satisfy this hunger, especially during major transitions in life.”
“More than anything else, I want Silver Linings to offer a safe environment where people can come to share. I want it to be a ministry that connects people of all ages in the parish in their journey of faith,” she stated.
Sister Carole began by gathering the wisdom of the elders in the parish. “Some are homebound. Some are living quite independently while others live in assisted and other retirement care situations. Some have moved in with adult children and are trying to find a way to be connected in their new parish. We are trying to offer ways for them to share their gifts and to receive the support of others,” she said.
Sister Carole is initiating activities to bring the elderly together with other generations. For example, she joined the Women’s Club with the Silver Linings group to make a pilgrimage to the Shrine of St. Mother Theodore Guerin at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods recently. At another event, teens joined the elders for breakfast and to create a video in which they asked the elders to share a life lesson.
“I have also created a ‘call list’ of about 30 volunteers who are willing to assist elderly who need some help with getting to a store or a doctor or doing routine tasks occasionally. Some are willing to visit those who just want a companion to listen to them for a while,” Sister Carole said.
In the fall, Sister Carole plans interactions between her group and the preschool. Silver Linings also hosts enrichment and educational events. “We are forming wisdom circles with various ages represented to encourage sharing and personal growth. I also want to reach out to caregivers. I now have a Silver Linings Committee to help me as we continue to evolve this ministry,” Sister Carole said.
“The most important and exciting part about this ministry, however, is presence and the personal interactions that occur — being able to listen to those who want just to talk and to share. I think it is very important for all to share their stories, both the blessings and the burdens,” Sister Carole said.
“Our mature adults are vital to the cycle of our lives. It is essential that we encourage our parishioners to share the wisdom they have gleaned from the journey of their lives. We need to reclaim this gift and bridge the gap that has widened overtime. It’s all about honoring the sacredness of each one’s life,” Sister Carole said.
(Online bonus content from the Summer 2015 issue of HOPE magazine.)