Living Hope Newsletter – August 2012
Building Inspiration in Retirement
Driven by their missionary spirit, their love for God, and their dedication to ministering to people in need, most Claretian priests and brothers work a full 40-hour week (and usually longer) well into their late 70s and early 80s. Most of these men don’t think too much about retirement or semi-retirement at any age until a health issue forces the consideration. It’s not that retirement isn’t a well-deserved goal; it’s just that there is always so much work to be done and there are so many priests needed by the people.
Like many other religious congregations, the Claretians have a growing group of retired members. This newly emerging demographic within the Congregation represents a vast wealth of knowledge, enlightened experience, and inspiration for the younger generations of the order—and at the same time this group deserves the option of a retirement that reflects their life path of dedication to God and people in need.
The U.S. Province formed a Senior Care Committee a couple years ago to look carefully into the realities and the needs of the Claretians in this demographic group. The committee is now finalizing their overview report and is very energized as they develop a strategic plan for a new Provincial ministry focused on the seniors in retirement.
he purpose of this ministry is to promote and enhance the health of the seniors in a comprehensive approach that includes mind, body, and spirit. The first home base of this new model is at the Claretians’ Dominguez community in California. There are currently about 20 Claretians at Dominguez, and about 10 more whose health requires nursing home care. A second location for the program is being developed in the Chicago area.
The following list features a few of the foundational programs for this new model:
• Build programs and activities—spiritual, academic, and social—to ensure the retired are drawn to a new sense of community and avoid a lapse into isolation that can so easily occur.
• Establish a small and safe exercise room with equipment appropriate for a variety of activity levels; include a licensed physical trainer to hold a half-day’s worth of instructional sessions a week to educate and motivate even the most restricted.
• Begin a nutrition improvement program to update the cooks regarding menu preparation. This will be a more time-intensive program for the first month, but should only require a nutritionist for a couple hours each month once the program is fully launched.
• Offer access to counseling a couple days a month as needed. It can be a difficult process to transition from being a key person in the life of a parish that encompasses so many families and people in need, to becoming a member of the elder tier of the Congregation with some (or a lot) of new-found time on your hands.
• Develop a climate of proactive healthcare. This will include a nurse on-site one half-day a week; this role will serve to encourage wellness, as well as to enable early detection of new health concerns when they are at their most treatable stages.
The seniors have given their life’s work to thousands of Catholics around the country. This new ministry embraces a unique combination of the inspiration the seniors already possess, and the ongoing gratitude of the rest of the Congregation.
Peru: A Mission of Hope
In the Amazon rainforest of eastern Peru, a small team of Claretian Missionaries ministers to the people of Atalaya—a small province about the size of Maryland— following Christ’s call to proclaim the Good News. Atalaya is one of the most naturally beautiful regions of Peru, and also one of the poorest. Over half of the 28,000 residents of the province are without electricity and clean, running water. In this challenging environment, the Claretians bring the benefits of education, medicine, and the hope of Christ through evangelization to as many communities as their resources allow.
In total, the Claretians serve more than 50 rural communities along the rivers running through Atalaya, traveling by boat between villages to provide medicine for the sick, school supply kits for elementary students, and clothing for those most in need. They also minister to the people’s spiritual needs through prayer, the Gospel, and the celebration of Mass and baptisms.
Because of their small numbers and the difficult, time-consuming travel involved, the Claretians are only able to visit each community about four times a year. But Fr. Victor Armando Gomez, C.M.F., says each visit helps the Claretians focus on and reinforce what’s most important to each particular community. “We try to be close to them, listen to them, and welcome their concerns and needs so that we can prepare a plan to respond in an evangelical way that gives life to these people.”
Through their travels, the Claretians have realized the real need for secondary education for the young men and women of this region. In response to this concern, they built the Sacred Heart of Mary House in the town of Atalaya, the capital city that shares the name of the province. Here, young people can work through their high school education, which may not be available to them locally in their section of the province. It is a valuable opportunity for the students and their communities— many of these students will later return home to serve as community leaders.
The town of Atalaya’s enthusiastic response to these ministries helps to energize the Claretians in the province and gives them inspiration for future ministries. Fr. Victor says, “We hope that this mission continues to advance, with the help of God. On our part, there is firm hope and joy in giving our very best.”