Lifelong Faith Formation: Older Americans need to share their faith with others

by CHRIS HANLEY
Wed, May 21st 2014 11:00 am

One of the changes over the past year is that there is a new pope. Who would have guessed the cardinals had gone almost to the end of the earth to get him? This humble and well-planted leader has refreshing words for us daily, along with an unassuming style. Pope Francis asks us to love one another and not to judge others in their situation. He says, "Gossip can also kill" and not to spread it.

I take these words to heart not only because he is right, but because we all slip in one form or another. It seems the whole world is once more embracing the leader of the Roman Catholic Church. He is leading by example and not just words. He is choosing to lead a simple life with an apartment, a used car, meeting people in hospitals, prisons and on the street.

What has this new pope said or done that is re-encouraging or getting to see faith in the light and love of Jesus Christ, as a Catholic? Share those thoughts and how it moves you with a friend. Listen to their response. Together grow in the oneness of Christ.

What goal have you set and not met? What is keeping you from that goal? I believe it's healthy to set a goal and attempt to reach it than to never try to accomplish something. Establish a goal, lay out a plan, and pray to God, or maybe I have that backward. Yes, pray to God first, that God helps you on your journey with the goals you have set. Review the goal and continue with the plan.

Make adjustments if you have to and then do it. Never stop dreaming and keep your hope alive. Hope gives us the ability to keep moving forward when other forces try and hold us back. And don't forget to make sure God is the first part of that plan.

What is happening or not happening in your parish that you can help with? What has your lifetime of experience taught you that you can share with the parish?

Don't think for one moment that God and His plan don't include you, because it does. You know the childhood saying, if at first you don't succeed ... Since the world is always changing, maybe the time is right to step forward and offer your assistance.

I offer two books for your enjoyment. The first is titled "Wine at the End of the Feast: Embracing Spiritual Change as We Age" by Kristen Johnson Ingram, OSA, Loyola Press, Chicago, 2003. This Catholic perspective on the aging process is a celebration of our later years. It also has a wonderful workbook that parishes and small discussion groups can use.

The second book is, "The Heart of Catholicism: Practicing the Everyday Habits That Shape Us" by Bert Ghezzi, Ave Maria Press. Ghezzi offers 13 critical behaviors that shape us as Catholic. His lifetime of experience brings wisdom and clarity to all Catholics.

Another thing that has changed in one year is that 3,650,000 more people have turned 65. Yes, 10,000 people a day are reaching 65, according to the PEW research group. This is the fastest growing segment of our population.

What you have built let no one destroy or diminish. This country wouldn't be as great as it is if it weren't for your efforts. So I say with heartfelt sentiment, thank you for all that you have done and all that you continue to do. Love God and love one another.

Chris Hanley is an associate director of Lifelong Faith Formation whose focus is adult faith formation and intergenerational learning. For more information call 716-847-5521 or write an email.   

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