“Those who love use their imagination to discover solutions where others see problems. Those who love help others according to their needs and with creativity, not according to preconceived ideas or common conceptions.” - Pope Francis, February 14, 2019
Often I have mused that as Sisters we assume the following false logic: “We love our old Sisters.” That is an undoubtedly true statement and feeling. But the assumption goes on, “So, of course, we take good care of them.”
Unfragmented, the whole thought is this: “We love our old Sisters. So, of course, we take good care of them.” Love is essential, but it must be proactive if it is to be sufficient. Pope Francis speaks of this directly in his Valentine’s Day message.
In our society, where ageism is so pervasive that we do not recognize it, ageist stereotypes clearly seep through convent walls. This ageism impacts how we view aging, old people (including ourselves), and what is the norm for an appropriate environment and services for these old people (commonly referenced as “they” or “them”). Francis’ statement speaks to the heart of how Sisters can and must approach and implement programs for their elders who need supportive services.
Love drives us to use our imagination to look at what happens and how it happens in our retirement centers with new eyes, with imagination that can envision what can be for our Sisters, not just what has always been.
Francis calls for creativity necessary to meet the needs of our Sisters according to their needs, not according to preconceived ideas, or common conceptions. Do ageist views of what old age is bind us to preconceived ideas, and blind us to new visions of what creativity could open for our Sisters, and therefore for the world?
Francis is calling for an active love which will transform the present culture of how we view aging and aging services. In the field of aging services, we call this Culture Change! This movement is a few decades old, and has bold, courageous leaders across the country carrying it’s message forward. It inspires me to know that among this number is a handful of Congregations of women religious whose leaders have listened to and responded to their instinctive knowledge that there can be more for our Sisters in their later years. These superiors have taken seriously their pastoral and canonical mandate to facilitate and nurture the highest possible quality of life for their elders. It is a part of completing the mission for each individual Sister who has committed and spent her life in service to the Church through her particular Religious Institute.
This ministry of service to our own members is merely another facet in the jewel of the works of Mercy which has defined Sisters’ ministry of service as a response to the signs of the times since we first came to the United States as missionaries.