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Spirituality & Aging – Living One’s Faith to the Fullest

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As we age we have the opportunity to reflect on the different stages of our lives. We turn back to the times of success and loss, happiness and grief and look at the life events that both encouraged and challenged us. Every year Catholic Charities hosts Days of Reflection, an event that creates a time of reflection and renewal for senior adults. This time provides opportunities to encourage, challenge, and support a community of faith while also allowing time for reconnecting with personal purpose. Days of Reflection address the spiritual needs of senior adults in interactive ways by providing an outlet for seniors to gather with one another and share their faith. Individuals, who attend, leave with renewed spirits and a sense of connectedness within a larger faith community.

Some may ask whether spirituality and faith make a difference in one’s outlook on aging and studies have shown that they do play a positive role in the aging process. Having had the privilege of working with seniors from around the Diocese for years, I have witnessed the difference faith and spirituality make in times of prosperity and sorrow. Individuals who are active in a church and their communities tend to be more content, less stressed, and have a more positive outlook on life. This does not mean that they do not face challenges, medical issues, losses, etc., but the way that they handle these challenges are different.

For example, when I first began working with Elder Ministry I had the good fortune of meeting Mr. & Mrs. C. These two were completely in love with one another and dedicated to making a positive difference in the lives of people they encountered. Their ever-present smiles warmed a room because their life long journeys of faith in God shined through. Mr. & Mrs. C were very active in their parish and community and throughout the years they attended many senior events, including Days of Reflection.

A few years ago, Mr. C was diagnosed with a terminal illness. There was an immediate sense of fear, followed by confusion and uncertainty; however, their strong faith provided reassurance, guidance and much needed comfort for the numerous challenges ahead. Throughout his diagnosis and treatment the C’s found refuge in their family, community and Catholic Charities. They drew strength and encouragement from those around them and were able to share their story to help others. Elder Ministry was able to provide information on programs and resources available in their community, which helped them to make better informed decisions during this challenging time. The C’s lived each day with grace and dignity and maintained a positive outlook on life, as they were able to embrace the time that they had together.

Following Mr. C’s death, Mrs. C found comfort, and direction through her faith and communion with others. Mrs. C continues to be active in Elder Ministry as she looks forward to the opportunity of connecting with other seniors from around the Diocese in faith, fun and fellowship.

Turning to the most recent Days of Reflection, I think about the many senior adults who came together from all around the Diocese. These seniors were from many walks of life, yet their faith drew them together to share and grow in a transformative way. Elder Ministry supports programs that offer individuals a way to continue finding meaning and purpose by staying connected with one’s self, community, and faith.

Sandra Breakfield
Program Director Elder Ministry
Catholic Charities Diocese of Charlotte

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