Ministry aims at maturing adults

By 
  • March 9, 2009
{mosimage}“Ministry with Maturing Adults; 55+” has lifted the spirits of many parishioners at St. Mary’s parish in Barrie, Ont.

For the past year, Sr. Mary Rose Marrin of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Toronto has led a variety of programs in this unique ministry addressing the spiritual, physical and emotional needs of retirees and seniors. It is based on the Spiritual Gerontology and Lifelong Faith Formation course offered in St. Louis by Richard Johnson, author of Parish Ministry for Maturing Adults. Marrin has completed the course. 

“I’m very committed to it and I think it’s a need in our church,” Marrin said.

“I think they have different needs and questions than when they were raising a family. The reality is that people are living 30 years longer than in previous generations.”

The Ministry with Maturing Adults is unique in Canada,  Marrin said, and she has had to create most of the material, with input from the maturing adults at St. Mary’s. The programs have run for as long as five weeks, and she has repeated them throughout the year, interspersed with social events. The first day, Marrin expected the program to have as many as 10 people, but ended up with 40.

One of the challenges of starting up any new program is garnering interest, but Marrin finds it important to consider those who don’t come to programs as still part of her ministry.

“You need to be very respectful of their own life experience and where they’re at,” she said.

One of the first programs, five weeks of sessions, allowed her to meet with the community and create a vision and mission. The current vision and mission is “to help maturing adults continue to grow into the fullness of Christian life” and “to support the life-long faith development of men and women throughout all phases of the pre-retirement and retirement years.”

She also gave an overview of aging and ageism — a topic necessary to address at the outset.

“I enjoy when I see these people connecting with each other,” Marrin said. “But people find it hard to admit they’re aging. That’s a cultural problem.”

Marrin said many initially thought the ministry would be “churchy” but were happy to see that it instead addressed life issues.

The next program, “Pathways to Heaven,” had a more spiritual component; another called “Lifestory” allowed participants to write stories which they compiled into a book. Most recently, Marrin offered a three-session program on the principles of caregiving and began “Parish Prayer Companion,” where people commit to praying for a ministry in the parish.

Once a month, they will meet for coffee and conversation.

Marrin did parish work in earlier ministry work, and hopes that when she eventually leaves St. Mary’s parish she can continue to offer these programs at other parishes on an ad hoc basis.

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