I wonder how many of you are aware that on Sunday, the Catholic Church celebrated the World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly. Pope Francis chose the theme “In old age they will still bear fruit” from Psalm 92:15. The purpose of this day was to emphasize how grandparents and the elderly are a value and a gift both for society and for ecclesial communities.
The theme is also an invitation to reconsider and value grandparents and the elderly, who are too often kept on the margins of families, civil and ecclesial communities. Their experience of life and faith can contribute, in fact, to building societies that are aware of their roots and capable of dreaming of a future based on greater solidarity.
The invitation to listen to the wisdom of the years is also particularly significant in the context of the synodal journey that the Church is undertaking.
The Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life invited parishes, dioceses, associations and ecclesial communities throughout the world to find ways to celebrate the Day in their own pastoral context.
Message from Pope Francis:
Our Diocesan Social Justice Council would like to give this matter some focus by inviting each parish to dialogue on:
- What the Parish considers the important issues facing elderly people in our society today;
- What actions the Parish does, or could take, to address these issues;
- How the Parish could pursue an interest in any particular matters coming out of the Aged Care Royal Commission.
The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety released its final report in February 2021. As a result, we might well ask ourselves:
- Will we as a nation improve the quality of life for our elderly living at home or in residential care?
- Will we ensure our elderly are treated with value, dignity and included in community life, so that they do not feel isolated and alone?
- Will we improve the training, remuneration and opportunities for our aged care workforce?
- Will we provide adequate funding for aged care service providers, whilst at the same time ensuring transparency and accountability from the providers?
- Will we ensure aged care in regional and rural areas is adequate and able to meet local needs?
A Parish taking action on Royal Commission findings might seem unrealistic. However, a few practical measures may include:
- Writing a letter to the local Federal MP supporting enhanced funding for service providers, improved training and remuneration for staff working in the aged care sector.
- It could mean a delegation visiting an MP to highlight the importance of equitable resourcing of aged care in regional and rural areas
So, each Parish is invited into ‘dialogue & listening’ in response to a couple of questions.
- How is the Parish responding to its ageing population?
- How can the Royal Commission findings help deepen our response to the needs of our elderly population, both locally and nationally?
I had a conversation last week with a person from one of our aged-care providers, who was concerned about the ongoing pastoral, spiritual and sacramental needs of those who are in aged-care facilities, as well as those who are aging at home and receiving aged-care packages. It seems to me that when someone is no longer able to come along to Mass, we lose contact with them, and they in turn lose contact with the worshipping community and the sacraments.
I hope some in our parishes might consider exploring some of the questions provided above with a view to taking action at the local level. We know there is an issue around people aging, and being isolated and disconnected from what matters most to them. The pandemic seems to have exacerbated the situation. Like me, many live a good distance from their children and grandchildren. And like me, our children are very busy working, bringing up their families and just surviving.
I believe our parishes can provide an important link to the elderly in their community.
I finish this week’s message with the Prayer for Grandparents and the Elderly:
I give thanks to you, Lord,
For the blessing of a long life
For, to those who take refuge in You,
Grant always to bear fruit.
Forgive, O Lord,
Resignation and disillusionment,
But forsake me not
When my strength declines.
Teach me to look with hope
To the future you give me,
To the mission you entrust to me
And to sing your praises without end.
Make me a tender craftsman
Of your revolution,
To guard with love my grandchildren
And all the little ones who seek shelter in You.
Protect, O Lord, Pope Francis
And grant Thy Church
To deliver the world from loneliness.
Direct our steps in the way of peace.