On Sunday 25 July, the inaugural World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly will be celebrated globally.
Announced by Pope Francis, the day will acknowledge and honour all elderly people and grandparents. The theme is “I am with you always” and is inspired by Jesus’ message to his disciples before he ascended into Heaven from Matthew 28:20. The day comes at a particularly relevant time, in the middle of a global pandemic where many grandparents and older people have been separated from families and young people in their lives.
“We must let older people know that they are needed and that they are essential to building the world of tomorrow. The three pillars to support this are their dreams, memories and prayers,” Pope Francis declared.
At Catholic Healthcare’s St Hedwig Village in Blacktown, the residents and staff will stop to celebrate World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly.
Anna, a resident at the Village, is a mother of four children, grandmother of seven and a great-grandmother of nine. She is a devout Catholic who attends the weekly Mass services and takes personal comfort in the Pope’s message.
“I find solace in attending Mass at the chapel at the Village each week and I partake in communion. It is a way for me to find a quiet escape and have some time for myself, and with God,” says Anna.
“The Pope’s message on the power of the prayers of the elderly was particularly important. I think prayer is important and it is a way we can encourage the younger generations.”
Anna has been living at St Hedwig Village for a few years and is originally from The Netherlands. She previously lived in Indonesia working as a pharmacist, before moving to Australia, where she has been now for over 70 years. All of her children are also practising Catholics.
“The Pope commented that grandparents are the link between the generations and can pass on their wisdom to younger people. This is very true and I am fortunate that in my family I have been able to nurture my offspring in their individual faith journeys,” says Anna.
In his message, Pope Francis also reassured the elderly that “the church is always close”. This is something that Caterina, Pastoral Care Coordinator at St Hedwig Village, can relate to. Her work enables her to provide reassurance to the residents that they can rely on the Church and God for support in times of need.
“I enjoy the one-to-one sessions I have with the residents,” says Caterina. “Many have interesting, sad or traumatic stories to tell about their years in the war for example. I value their wisdom and it is often just a matter of whether they are willing and able to share their insights.”
Caterina spends quality time ministering to and pastoring the residents and is also involved in running communion services and assisting with the Mass services at the Village. She has a passion for working in the aged care sector, having worked previously as a volunteer coordinator for the Federal Government’s Community Visitors Scheme prior to joining Catholic Healthcare.
For Caterina, what resonated most about the Pope’s message was the ‘value’ that we ought to attribute to the elderly.
“Often younger people are not interested in the elderly, or don’t have time for them,” says Caterina. “But if they can take the time to build relationships with older people and learn to ask questions from them, they can learn a lot.
“In my work, I have the love, desire, patience and empathy required for working with the elderly. I am truly inspired by their stories, experiences and insights – we must take the opportunity to learn from them while we have the time, and while we have the elderly or our grandparents with us.”
St Hedwig Village is a ‘little oasis’ surrounded by native bushland located at the centre of Blacktown, in Sydney. Residents can choose to engage in a number of activities offered at the village, including cooking groups, church services, exercise programs and arts and crafts activities to name a few. A brand-new Retirement Village is currently under construction at the site.
For more information on St Hedwig Village, please call 1800 225 474 or visit the website: https://www.catholichealthcare.com.au/residence/st-hedwig-village/
With thanks to Catholic Healthcare.