Companioning Through the Second Half of Life
While the grind of a day job can make retirement appealing, the retired face their own challenges. "Their whole lives have been raising a family or holding a job," says Sister Mary Rose Marrin of St. Mary's Parish. "Now their energies have to be redirected."
Sister Mary Rose, pictured above, far right in front, is the Parish Animator for the Ministry of Maturing Adults. Her ministry, located in Barrie, Ont., focuses on creating relationships among the retired in her parish.
"As people get older," says Sister Mary Rose, "their relationships become diminished through death and people moving away." Her ministry addresses this with a variety of events and educational programs.
One of this year's programs whose members are pictured above is called Even Better After 50. This program features a series of video presentations regarding physical, mental and spiritual health. Other education programs include the Life Story Writing Group, Positive Aging and Personal Prayer for Maturing Adults.
There's also Neighbourhood Circles, which provides monthly gatherings of coffee and conversation to parishioners living in the same geographic neighbourhoods.
All of these programs gather 10 to 20 maturing adults into groups where they can develop new relationships. "Relationships," she says, "are more important than health or finances."
She also knows that religious faith changes in the later years. In her view, the post-retirement years are an opportunity to redefine one's relationship with God.
"It can't just be a ritual," she says. "It has to be a process of discovering the presence of God in life." All these programs offer tools for that discovery.
There's also the Parish Prayer Companions program. Participants are invited to pray for the needs of the parish. "This is for elders who can no longer contribute to active ministry." They might choose to pray for people's health or for families. "They're commissioned by the pastor to this ministry of prayer," she says.
Originally, Sister Mary Rose's bulletins categorized maturing adults as boomers, builders and elders. "We've moved away from that terminology," says Sister Mary Rose. Her ministry has to face the cultural prejudice against aging.
"This year, we've been referring to the ministry as being for men and women in the second half of life."
Sister Mary Rose finds the second half of life is neglected because the increase of one's lifespan is a recent development. "People now live to their 80s and 90s and beyond." She feels it takes flexibility and courage to adapt to this.
"They need a sense of purpose to get up in the morning," she says. She's seen this done in different ways. She describes people who perform volunteer work or develop talents never used in their jobs. Some look after grandchildren or have become caregivers for spouses and family members.
She avoids dictating a course of action to her parishioners. "Aging is essentially a spiritual journey," she says, "and this ministry provides education and tools to help."
By Ibrahim Ng