Jim and Ann Cavera met as Peace Corps volunteers in Liberia, married in 1966 and raised their four children in Evansville, Ind., where Jim was a social worker at St. Mary Medical Center and Ann taught at their parish school.
In 1997, they began writing a weekly column, “The Second Half,” for their diocesan paper, The Message, after caring for her parents gave them insight into the challenges of their generation. It won two first-place awards (1999 and 2008) from the Catholic Press Association.
Jim was ordained a permanent deacon in 1983. In 2005, the couple moved to Bellevue, Ohio, to live closer to their son and his family in Bowling Green. Jim is the pastoral associate at Immaculate Conception Church in Bellevue and Ann is active in RCIA. They will retire later this year to devote more time to writing. They are co-authors of the books “Closing In On God” (Midlife Spirit, $8) and “Grounded In Faith: A Mature Experience” (Liguori Publications, $12.95).
Our Sunday Visitor: What are seniors concerned about?
Deacon Jim Cavera: It seems that after parents die, at some point one looks around and comes to the realization that they are now next in line. There is no longer an imaginary buffer between them and death. This happened to me at a family reunion when my brothers and I observed that we had become the old people sitting on the edge of the group.
Ann Cavera: People we talk to are mainly concerned about the future and well-being of the faith, health and life of their children and grandchildren.
OSV: What are the most pressing issues of spirituality at this age?
Ann: Sometimes the things that trouble us in the second half of life may be what has been troubling us for many years. Some spend time in what ifs? And if onlys? Most people get through that. We let go of baggage that is useless. Some, however, do seem to get stuck in regrets for things in the past or spend time worrying about the future.
The need for forgiveness can rise and cause great pain. There is great freedom to be had in the second half of life, the freedom in forgiving anything that has caused us pain, the pain we have caused, as well as pain others have caused us.
OSV: What are the greatest joys for seniors?
Ann: Beyond forgiveness, the gift of prayer becomes a source of great joy. We begin to understand the power in the gifts of prayer, the gift of the Eucharist, the gift of forgiveness.
OSV: What are your greatest joys now?
Jim: We have come to love peace and quiet, and spending quality time with our grandchildren. Little things take on greater meaning. We relish joyful moments on the porch swing, going for walks, watching the birds outside the window, praying together.
Ann: I am so thankful for good relationships, for Jim, for our children and grandchildren. I am thankful for the discovery that our faith continues to grow. Faith keeps life fresh and supplies a sense of adventure. Reasonably good health at this point in life is always a blessing, and the growing awareness of God’s presence and care brings great joy.
OSV: How can the Church serve its seniors?
Jim: Mother Teresa commented about the devastation of loneliness. One of the biggest needs of the Church today is for a listening ministry. So many of us have complained that we do not have enough time to meet the needs of our people, and that is one of the greatest challenges to our Church today. I have heard pastors say that people are more willing to give money than time, and I believe it. Time has become a most valued commodity. I have learned this lesson over and over when I take Communion to those who can no longer make it to church. Some visits are for 15 minutes and others are for one hour.
Ann: Sharing faith within a parish community is a great comfort, blessing and joy in the second half of life. In a caring community, people know our joys and sorrows. Someone to visit us in the hospital, send a card or provide a helping hand when we need it provides a great measure of peace.
OSV: Is the second half generally a good time for believers?
Jim: The second half is a great time to ask what it is that we really believe. The Gospel writers describe many incidents when Jesus went off by himself to pray and, I expect, to raise questions. Our faith, like all human endeavors, fluctuates from periods of strength and certainty to periods of weakness and uncertainty.
St. Paul commented about periods of weakness and helplessness leading him to great faith. Closing in on God is a good time for uneasiness and questions that can bring us to see the risen Christ in our midst.
Maryann Gogniat Eidemiller writes from Pennsylvania.
On the Web (sidebar)
Deacon Jim and Ann Cavera’s website, Catholic Senior Spirit (www.catholicseniorspirit.com), includes reflections on faith and links to columns. Here is an excerpt of a reflection:
“Nothing is more difficult than watching a parent slip away, bit by bit each day. During our years as caregivers for Mom and Dad, Jim and I sometimes looked at each other and said, ‘It’s only going to get worse.’ That was one of the greatest difficulties. We knew no matter how hard we tried or how many doctors we saw or how hard we prayed, the outlook for Mom and Dad’s health was not good. Only gradually did we come to recognize the great spiritual gifts found in learning to live life in the moment, finding joy in the small blessings that invariably came in spite of the hardships.”
To read the Caveras’ The Second Half columns, visit www.themessageonline.org/columns/index.html.