2012 Year of Women Religious at 401 E. 20th Street, Covington, KY 41014 US - Lessons from the school of aging
Lessons from the school of aging
Sister Mary Faustina Zugelder, SJW
Health care is often discussed in the media and in politics these days. The topics that come to mind usually are about money or laws and their implications, but for years women religious have cared for the sick and the frail, not because of laws or money, but because they recognized the dignity of each person.
Before becoming a Sister, I never considered a job in the field of health care, but God in his Divine Mercy prepared me for it anyway. I grew up around many elderly people within my family and in the community. I was exposed to the frailty, the beauty and the wisdom of the elderly through family gatherings and church events. I always found it easy to connect with the elderly, not realizing it was all part of God’s great plan
In caring for the elderly at Taylor Manor in Versailles, Ky., I find they give me much more than I can ever give them. They help me to grow in patience as I answer the same question for the fifth time from a mind that can no longer remember, as I wait for steps that are slowed to catch up. They teach me the gift of compassion as they show me their courage when they struggle with pain or confusion. They allow me to touch the face of God, when I offer them a drink they can no longer hold for themselves.
Caring for the elderly has also given me new insight into the beatitudes. Who is more poor in spirit than the person who leaves behind a house and a lifetime of material wealth and accepts the simplicity of living in one small room with the little it can hold. Who is more merciful than the older lady who comforts a lonely friend by saying, “Maybe you are like me, and forget that your family just visited.” Who is more pure of heart than the lady who smiles and offers affection to everyone because she is confused and thinks all these nice people are her children and grandchildren.
I travel the Way of the Cross with them when they struggle to walk because of pain or arthritis or with the small things that used to come easy to them. When I sit with family members near their dying loved one, I am at the foot of the Cross in company with Mary and John.
The elderly have taught me to offer to God now the conditions of my old age that I will one day experience. I try to practice joy during times of trial and peace when things are not proceeding as I have planned.
Society may need to be reminded that we are dealing with individuals made in the image and likeness of God. Let us not miss the opportunity to gain grace and walk in faith as we honor our mothers and fathers in their old age.
This reflection by Sister Mary Faustina is one in a series of articles and features published by the Messenger as part of the Year of Women Religious observation.