Supporting the Faith Development of Maturing Adults
Something new is happening in St. Mary's Parish in Barrie, Ontario. Within the past year, a whole cluster of programmes has begun under the heading "Ministry With Maturing Adults." Sister Mary Rose Marrin CSJ is the animator; she is pictured above in the second row, third from right, with participants from her spring "Positive Aging" group.
At the official opening, 80 participants received the programme's welcoming handout telling about:
Our Vision: Maturing Adults continue to grow into the fullness of Christian life.
Our Mission: Our Ministry with Maturing Adults seeks to support the lifelong faith development of women and men throughout all phases of the pre-retirement and retirement years.
"This present ministry is simply an unfolding of my earlier ministry in attending to faith development, now on behalf of an older age group," said Sister Mary Rose. "Experience in teaching and parish work as well as congregational leadership have given me many practical skills to design and implement programmes, deal with people and generally get things done." And what things are getting done!
Of course it all began with the people themselves — home visits and conversations with small groups provided opportunities to listen to "the experience, insights and hopes of the people." The Visioning Process, a series of five meetings, involved 43 participants and developed the Vision and Mission statements quoted above. Other faith development programmes are Positive Aging and the Life Story Writing Group. As well, there is a general session each month, sometimes educational, sometimes fun, open to all and encouraging involvement of new persons. Plans for next year include sessions entitled Pathways to Wisdom and Personal Prayer for Maturing Adults.
Next come the Outreach Programmes, Parish Prayer Companions which is well under way and Neighbourhood Circles, just beginning, which hopes to "establish parish-based support groups of maturing adults who live in the same neighbourhood." In this context, "Support means compassionate presence, respectful assistance and prayer for one another in relationships of mutual care and concern."
How did this all come about? After eight years as a member of the Leadership Team of her congregation, Sisters of St. Joseph of Toronto, Sister Mary Rose felt "need for a new direction in ministry." Building on the theology degree previously obtained before her first move into parish ministry, she obtained a Certificate in Spiritual Gerontology.
The result was a move to Barrie to take up a position as "Parish Animator, Ministry with Maturing Adults." At her meeting with her pastor, Fr. Frank McDevitt, to review the year, she says "I feel that the ministry has developed reasonably well in the first nine months. I have become more convinced of its value and continue to be grateful for the opportunity to explore and develop ministry for this age group."