By Denise Puckett and Shalah Bottoms
They shall bear fruit even in old age, always vigorous and sturdy… (Psalm 92:15)
There are now more Americans age 65 and older than at any other time in U.S. history; it will continue to grow. The Census Bureau estimates that in the years to come the population that is 65 and older will more than double while the population under 20 years of age will see almost no growth.
Four hundred years before Jesus, Plato remarked, “The spiritual eyesight improves as the physical eyesight declines.” Recently Dr. Richard P. Johnson, Ph.D. said, “As we mature, our spiritual pace quickens.”
In the month of June, the Archdiocese of Louisville, Catholic Charities, the Family Ministry Office and the Office of Faith Formation, with the assistance of the Catholic Services Appeal sponsored a two-day event to affirm, support and engage maturing adults in their journey.
On the first day Dominican Sister Janet Schaeffler motivated and inspired more than 30 parish leaders to walk with our vibrant seniors in their spiritual growth and mission within the community and the wider world. The parish leaders, who attended the workshop, received a deeper understanding of the psychological, physical, and spiritual lives of seniors and many practical tools for senior ministry to implement in their parishes.
On the second day, Sister Janet warmly and creatively engaged close to 70 seniors from across the Archdiocese for the retreat, “The Best is Yet to Be.” Sr. Janet highlighted the maturing years as a “rich and most fruitful time” in our lives. It is a time of growth and deepening of who we are — in relationship with self, others, and God. She encouraged and challenged seniors to stretch their boundaries of learning, to be open to new life and to cultivate a sense of mission.
A survey was given to both the parish leaders and the seniors who attended the events to learn about the needs of seniors in the parishes. The survey comprised of three areas: challenges, ministries and support. The surveys were reviewed and results showed that seniors identified social engagement, housing and healthcare as their top three challenges. In regards to the ministries offered by the parishes, social engagement, spirituality and homebound ministries were most common. When asked what support they would like from the church, seniors suggested they would like more seminars and retreats that will nourish their physical, spiritual and emotional lives.
This event was beneficial to everyone involved. From the parish leaders, to seniors, and even the staff organizing the event, everyone learned valuable information about the needs, gifts and potential of aging citizens in our community.
Denise Puckett is the family services project coordinator and Shalah Bottoms is the director of the family support program at Catholic Charities of Louisville.