By Father Jacob Dankasa
Special to The Texas Catholic
At St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Richardson, there is a small gathering place called the Forum. People meet, relax and study in the Forum, with coffee, donuts, cookies and Wifi. But I am most impressed by what often takes place in the Forum among some of the older members of the church community after the morning masses.
When I was serving at St. Joseph, I had the privilege of reflecting and writing about what takes place in the Forum and its effect on older members of the community. I saw it as a model of evangelization to the spiritual and everyday lives of senior citizens in parish communities.
Most mornings, many seniors of the church community gather in the Forum after the morning Mass and share time together. This is an informal gathering where they have some coffee together and share stories.
The joy that radiates from these older members of that community knows no bounds. They chat with a strength that is unimaginable for people their age, and they express their inner happiness in laughter that is so infectious.
Every month they celebrate their birthdays with food and fanfare. If you want to know what’s going on in the parish or hear the latest “gossip,” or if you want to pass on information that you forgot to announce on Sunday and you want it to go out very fast, then go to the Forum. It’s pretty exciting!
Some among these seniors are struggling with illness or the weight of old age, but none of that deters them from this magnificent communal expression of joy; you can see that in the energy they exude.
Certainly, they have found strength in their faith community and their joy is unstoppable. Their expressions of happiness and sense of life-fulfillment give me hope that old age is not a burden, but a gift.
I admire them, I love them and I envy them. May God bless them.
I have talked to a few of them and asked them about the gratification they derive from coming together every morning. The answers I received were amazing. They told me how they go to bed at night always hoping to gather in the morning; they feel stronger when they listen to the stories of others and share their own; and they find comfort in one another. For some of them, it takes away loneliness and isolation and makes them feel that life is worth living.
What more can someone of that age ask than to live life happily, feeling a sense of family? This is what the church community is all about, and this is what it should provide. The very elderly in our communities should find a second home in their faith communities; they should feel loved and welcomed. I recommend that more parishes provide such opportunities for the older members of their communities to come share their joy and live life at its best. We need to make their 80s feel like their 20s again!
I also invite more seniors in our parishes to make the church community a second home, to find God and to find a spiritual family to lean on. We all need to find a home in our own faith community.
Father Jacob Dankasa is a parochial vicar at St. Anthony Catholic Church in Wylie.