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Coinciding with the World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, the ‘Aging and Awakening God’s Surprising Gifts’ workshop was held by lecturer Rev. Dr. Laurence McNamara CM at the Catholic Theological College.
The event attracted parishioners across the Melbourne archdiocese, opening up the discussion and need for spiritual and physical self-care during the later years of life.
Rev. Dr. McNamara has been working in the area of aging for 25 years, and has developed a center for human aging at the college, and has made a focus on aging within the university community which he hopes will be continued into future.
‘We could all agree that aging is a significant issue and because of my own background, I’ve found it quite significant that for many years we’ve all been concerned about the latest technologies and how they might enhance human lives and how they might elongate human lives. And yet we’re not addressing the issue with what it means to be an old person and it’s on that framework on which this centre is built,’ he said.
The Human Ageing centre has been said to be set on four foundation stones, the theology of aging, spirituality of aging, pastoral care of aging, and ethics and is the first of its kind in the world.
‘What’s envisioned for this centre has two directions,’ Rev. Dr. McNamara explained. ‘The first is to develop resources and the second is education, to develop programs.’
Good Samaritan Sister, Sr. Kerin Caldwell spoke about the Ageing and Awakening program and a raised issue in a conversation with a bishop where she had mentioned that ‘we don’t do anything in church for people in their later years’ which is what draws her to what she described as Rev. Dr. McNamara’s vision.
‘There are all these people in our diocese who have retired who are 55, 60, 65 and they’re living their whole lives and in church we expect them to carry on until their later years,’ she said.
‘What I’ve found is that this wasn’t just needed in the archdiocese, but it was needed in our society.’
‘There is a human interest and a human need on how to live well. What are the kinds of challenges that I face in my sixties, seventies, eighties and nineties?’
Rosie Brinkman, a retired teacher who has taken part in two aging programs spoke about her own experiences in participating in programs focused on aging and awakening.
‘The first experience was during a six-day retreat and I was wanting to give myself some time to be one with God. From the start, I was hooked. It was as though the program had my name all over it,’ she explained.
‘The very first session was getting to know who I was after a lifetime of identifying myself by the roles I played out as a wife, mother, teacher and lately a student. Now I was floating in this moment of my life where I didn’t have to be anyone. It was time to identify with a new self-image,’ she said.
‘It was a time I realised I could decide how I was going to live out the rest of my years.’
Rosie spoke about the experiences shared during the retreat, one about an elderly gentleman who no longer had his license so he ‘made friends with public transport’ and another woman who had prepaid her funeral, ‘leaving instructions on the content of her service and where she wanted her ashes to be scattered.’
‘It was very inspiring,’ she said.
She described her second experience as quite different from the retreat with over thirty people in her group spanning the ages of 63 through to 90 years of age.
‘It was a very non-judgmental environment that encouraged people to speak up,’ she said.
Rose expressed hope for a future in facilitating these groups. ‘It’s a way to look into the future,’ she said.
‘Aging was spoken about in a positive light, which we are not used to hearing,’ she explained. ‘We have choices when it comes to aging. So it’s good news.’
To learn more about the Graduate Certificate in Ageing offered at Catholic Theological College, please go to www.ctc.edu.au.