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Jun 25
The spirituality of aging

​Sr. Mary Rose Marrin, CSJ, was inspired to start a Ministry with Maturing Adults based at St. Mary's Parish in Barrie in 2007 after noticing the 50+ demographic had been underserved for so many years. She holds a certificate in Spiritual Gerontology, an emerging discipline which deals with the inner emotional and spiritual needs of the senior adults. In light of Seniors' Month, Sr. Mary Rose shares her insights on the 'spiritualty of aging.'

1. Why are the 'maturing years' (50+) a vital period for spiritual growth?

Throughout most of history, aging has been viewed in terms of diminishment and decline. In the 1970s, gerontologists began to study not just the deficits of aging but also the undeveloped potentials of the aging process. Their research showed that the spiritual dimension was a major undeveloped potential. In fact, they concluded that as we mature, our potential for spiritual growth increases. The nature of this potential is in an increased capacity for awareness, consciousness, insight, and wisdom – wisdom as understood as grasping the meaning of life, of getting a glimpse of life from God's perspective. As one person said, "Sometimes, it takes a lifetime just to get it." This potential is not just for the benefit of the individual but for society. It is the vocation of the elder to remind the world of what is really important in human life. With the current unravelling of society, the role of the wise elder has never been more urgently needed. We do not become wise simply by growing old. Karl Rahner wrote: "Aging is a vocation and a mission. It is serious business and runs the risk of radical failure." 

2. What are some activities that seniors can undertake on a daily basis in order to encourage their faith development and enhance their zest for life?

Maturing adults need to develop a sense of personal responsibility for their ongoing growth throughout the aging process. There is a tendency towards entitlement; that somehow others are responsible for taking care of me. Related to this entitlement and our culture's obsession with entertainment, there is a tendency to approach every offering in terms of what I will personally gain from it. This needs to be balanced by an attitude of: What can I contribute?

Some specific activities might be:

  • Spending some time each day in stillness: being present to oneself, to nature, to music, to the Spirit of God
  • Reach out to someone every day in person, or by phone or email
  • Join a group
  • Participate in activities at your parish
  • Develop interests which keep you feeling 'fully alive'
  • Listen to the news and chose one current need which touches you. Pray for that situation today.
  • Do a few minutes of good reading each day. Be attentive to what speaks to you.
  • Take time at the end of the day to be grateful for the gifts of that day.

 
3. Is there anything else you'd like to add?

Ageism is very strong in our culture. This is a very real challenge. The general stance is to resist and deny the aging process. There is also a tendency to think that any outreach to seniors is directed to the frail elderly. Active seniors do not want to be associated with frailty. As well, parish ministry tends to focus on the celebration of sacraments and sacramental preparation. The celebration of the Eucharist is central. However, once adults become empty nesters they often tend to have less contact with the parish and can easily slip away. The ministry is addressed not only to the inner core of regular participants but must reach out to all levels of participation – and non-participation. On a positive note, any evidence of insight gained is a cause of joy. Seeing parish communities reach out to each other is a source of joy and energy.

For more information on resources and support for seniors in the Archdiocese of Toronto, please contact Sally Amaral at the Office of Formation for Discipleship at samaral@archtoronto.org.

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