Student friars Marvin Voo and Nelson Evarinus spent the month of June on a mission exposure and pastoral attachment at St Joseph’s Home, a home for the aged under the care of the Canossian Sisters. They share some of what struck them from the experience.
Friar Marvin: On my third day, I asked the Lord why he had sent me there. God replied during morning prayer in the reading – “Give your bread to those who are hungry, and your clothes to those who are naked. Whatever you own in plenty, devote a proportion to almsgiving. Bless the Lord God in everything; beg him to guide your ways and bring your paths and purposes to their end.” (Tobit 4:16,19).
In a literal sense, I was doing “give your bread to those who are hungry, and your clothes to those who are naked” by helping to bathe and feed the residents, and make their beds.
What gives meaning to what I was doing is “Whatever you own in plenty, devote a proportion to almsgiving”. Sr Geraldine, who was in charge of us, was always telling us – residents and staff – to harvest the smile. One afternoon, a resident who was difficult to handle and cursed almost every day caught my hand as I walked past, and asked me gently if I was still working and when was I going back. I was stunned and touched because that was the nicest thing I had ever heard from him.
I will never forget our fourth day. In the morning, we prayed Lauds with a resident who passed away that evening. That was a reminder to me that I need to live well every second of my life and “Bless the Lord God in everything; beg him to guide your ways and bring your paths and purposes to their end”.
Friar Nelson: I always describe old people as messy, wrinkly, and ugly. But one of the biggest benefits of living many years is one that so many today overlook or dismiss. It’s the wisdom that comes from so much experience in life!
Living and working in St Joseph’s Home for a month made me realise that ministering to the elderly is not a burden but is instead an opportunity to see my future. I remember seeing a poster in a senior centre that declared, “Growing old isn’t for sissies!” As the years go by, we will all relate with that statement more and more. But the Creator who designed our bodies to be affected by the passage of time does not leave us to suffer alone.
Through the prophet Isaiah, He says, “Listen to me, O house of Jacob, and all the remnant of the house of Israel, who have been upheld by me from birth, who have been carried from the womb; even to your old age, I am he, and even to grey hairs I will carry you! I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry and will deliver you” (Isaiah 46:3-4).