Never too old: the wisdom, witness of senior citizens

A few years ago I covered a simple story about a group of women in a nursing home who came together once a week to make rosaries. I was incredibly moved by my time with them — by their ministry, their delight in conversation and their palpable loneliness. When I got to my car, I put my head in my hands and told myself I should visit soon and often.

I never went back.

Life happened. Other activities took precedence. And senior citizens, living quietly in nursing homes or in that house down the street, can be painfully easy to forget.

But just because they might be a little older, a little weathered or a little out of sight by no means makes seniors obsolete, as this week’s issue makes clear.

The In Focus (Pages 9-12) is all about the witness and wisdom that Catholics seniors bring to parish life — whether in their involvement in parish ministries, volunteering in the community or going door-to-door to spread the Faith. One group of women — similar to those who made the rosaries — pieces together quilts to give to crisis pregnancy centers or the Ronald McDonald house.

Many elderly priests, too, thrive in their retirement as they celebrate the sacraments when possible, visit the sick and serve as models of the Faith to their parishioners (Page 12).

eucharistic minister
W.P. Wittman Ltd.

Our faith story (Page 14-15) demonstrates all the ways seniors effectively contribute in times of bereavement. Said author David Aaker:

“Seniors have so much to bring to the table. (They) can give so much hope to others who journey into and through the grieving process. They can provide a wider perspective, a fuller picture.”

In her column, Teresa Tomeo (Page 17) expounds on the gift of a peaceful death as she recalls the recent passing of her father-in-law and how the dignity of his life was best understood by her 9-year-old nephew.

In addition to this print content, testimonials of four senior citizens using their gifts to follow Jesus’ call have been posted online at Their stories range from a 92-year-old transport volunteer at an Illinois hospital to a 66-year-old man from Iowa who currently is making a pilgrimage on El Camino de Santiago in northern Spain. We hope you’ll check out these powerful, everyday witnesses to the Faith.

Finally, this week’s editorial focuses on the all too commonly overlooked subject of euthanasia. Vermont’s recent passage of a bill legalizing physician-assisted suicide is another sign of an alarming trend, and one that victimizes the elderly in the name of mercy.

In an address titled “Sobre el Cielo y la Tierra” in 2010, Pope Francis said: “The old person is the transmitter of history, he who brings us memories, the memory of our people, of our country, of our family, culture, and religion. … He has lived a long time, and even if he’s done so as a fool, he deserves serious consideration.”

I welcome your thoughts: