Clergy, religious honored for aging

By Marnie McAllister, Record Editor

Ursuline Sister of Louisville Brendan Conlon, who at age 89 is helping three people learn English, writes grants and makes monthly visits to female inmates, received a Gold Standard Award for Optimal Aging from the University of Louisville earlier this month.

She, one other Ursuline Sister and seven retired priests were among 51 men and women age 85 and older honored by the university. They were nominated by people who are inspired by their examples.

Dr. Jane Thibault, professor emerita in the department of family and geriatric medicine at the University of Louisville, said the honorees “are doing all these things that are inspiring other people.”

“We really consider them all winners,” she said of the nominees. “These are people who are winning at life. They are the people who have what the Gospel calls ‘an abundant  life.’ And they are grateful to be alive.”

This year’s nominees include Ursuline Sister Martha Buser and Fathers Bernard Leo Craycroft, James E. Flynn, Robert Gray, Kenneth L. Kamber, Robert E. Osborne, Gerald Timmel, Joseph Voor and Albert L. Wilson.

Thibault, who started the award program five years ago, said it serves two purposes.

“It demonstrates to younger people that even aging with disabilities does not need to be feared. It’s not the end of life,” she said, noting that she’s long been concerned that younger people tend to fear aging and that this can contribute to suicide.

Secondly, she said, “The main thing is that the world can see these people who are totally outstanding. These people are going on with life, grateful for it and inspiring other people.”

Thibault, who is a member of the Secular Carmelite Community of the Compassionate Spirit and serves on the Archdiocese of Louisville’s retired priests committee, said she hopes that the honoring of seven priests this year raises awareness about their contributions.

“Their whole lives are geared toward charity, loving their neighbor,” she said. “So many don’t really know what priests do.”

The award nominations — and Sister Conlon’s award citation — paint a colorful portrait of very active and involved people with full and faithful lives. A listing of the honorees follows:

Sister Conlon, who received the Outstanding Female Award, “is living fully everyday of her life as an Ursuline Sister of Louisville,” the award citation said. She is “a genuine example of a woman who is aging optimally.”

The other nominees are similarly active in their golden years.

Sister Buser, who as recently as December facilitated a program for the Angela Merici Center for Spirituality, is 85 and “is a free spirit who shares her gifts with others,” the nomination said. “Being free, spiritually grounded and a sense of humor are qualities that keep her active and young at heart.”

Father Craycroft, 87, plays golf year-round and still serves as a substitute priest, sometimes travelling 70 miles to celebrate Mass. He also participates in retreats at the Abbey of Gethsemani and St. Meinrad Archabbey.

Father Flynn, 86, serves in Hispanic ministry in the Archdiocese of Louisville, is active in peace and justice advocacy and celebrates Masses when needed on weekends. He also enjoys hiking and bicycling.

Father Gray, 88, serves as a senior associate at three parishes and celebrates weekly Mass at a local nursing home. He travels, keeps up with alumni groups from St. Xavier High School and the University of Notre Dame and he “stays in touch” with the backside at Churchill Downs, the nomination said.

Father Kamber, 88, celebrates Mass several times a week, attends peer meetings with fellow priests and walks two miles a day. He also gives haircuts to his brother priests and enjoys cooking for friends.

Father Osborne, 87, helps at various parishes and celebrates a weekly Mass at Nazareth Home. He plays golf, takes part in book discussion groups and prayer groups and attends performances of the Louisville Orchestra.

Father Timmel, 85, works with homeless people at the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, travels to California to conduct marriage retreats and is active in promoting workshops for other senior clergy.

Father Voor, 90, serves as a team priest and in local leadership of the Worldwide Marriage Encounter Council. He plays golf regularly and “is a wonderful mentor and inspiration as to what people can accomplish as they age optimally,” the nomination said.

Father Wilson, 89, manages a home for retired clergy in Southwest Louisville and participates regularly in clergy functions and peer group meetings.

Marnie McAllister
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Marnie McAllister
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