Easter 2019 Newsletter

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  Philippians 4:6


What next for Growing Old Grace-fully
We are so grateful for the generous support of the (international) Society of the Sacred Heart, as well as all our other supporters and funders, since Growing Old Grace-fully was formed 10 years ago.

Our current funding is about to run out and the management committee are working hard to secure new funding so our core work can continue, as well as developing an expanded programme.  It is our hope and our prayer that we can continue to support and encourage ‘later life friendly parishes’ for another 10 years by raising awareness of the contribution of older people and helping respond to their spiritual and practical needs.

Our work is unique amongst the Catholic dioceses in England & Wales, helping the Church to respond more effectively to the very real challenges of the ‘demographic time-bomb’.


Our future plans

As well as continuing our core work of developing resources and sharing good practice, we want to develop innovative ways of responding to the spiritual and practical needs of older people.

A key ambition for the future includes exploring the possibility of piloting a Parish Lay Chaplaincy for Older People, a model of pastoral, spiritual and emotional support for older people in a parish, working alongside the Parish Priest and other parish groups such as the SVP.  Our survey of respondents from 53 parishes in our Diocese, conducted in April last year, indicated the need for a more structured approach to caring and support for older people.  The responses suggest that, although parish life generally offers a sense of belonging, real ownership, caring and spiritual food, in practice provision can be patchy… a parish lottery.  Some older people can ‘slip through the net’ and are most at risk of becoming isolated from their parish at those crisis points that bereavement and chronic health conditions present.  The chaplain will be there to provide a listening presence, companionship and one-to-one pastoral support for older people in a parish.

We also want to develop and offer a series of short sessions for parishes focused on Living and Dying Well; coping with the losses of life and preparing for death.  In a society where talking about death and dying is taboo, there is a real need to provide space to explore some of the deeper questions and considerations for a parish to support people through bereavement, as well as giving people the opportunity to think about their own end of life wishes.

In addition, we hope to give older people the chance to share their wisdom and experience in telling their stories of the role of faith in later life.  We would want to produce a number of video interviews of older people to be shared at events and conferences, to hear their personal testimonies and explore how we might not all ‘grow old gracefully’ in the accepted sense, but that it can be possible to find grace in the challenges.


Free practical resources for parishes

The following are available to download from our website by clicking on the links:

  • Welcoming Older People: ideas for and from parishes, an 88-page Parish Pack offering spiritual and practical ideas to support church communities in valuing older people and benefitting from their gifts.  This Guide is also available as a printed folder by emailing growing.old.gracefully@dioceseofleeds.org.uk

The Dementia Friendly Diocese Working Group have produced some short resources.  These are also available at Caritas Leeds .


We ask you to hold our work and future direction in your prayers.  

Warmest thanks for your interest in and support of our work across the Diocese.

Pippa Bonner, Trustee                Carol Burns, Chair                Anne Forbes, Trustee

 Paul Grafton, Trustee               Maria Longfellow, Trustee      Cath Mahoney, Trustee      

 Mgr Peter Rosser, Treasurer          Ann West, Trustee


I am leaving the role of Growing Old Grace-fully‘s (GOG) Project Co-ordinator and April is officially my last month.

I am sad to be leaving but I am also immensely grateful for my time with GOG as I have learnt so much from our management committee, all of whom are volunteers who give up their time freely, as well as so many of the older and younger people I have met in the course of my last 4 years in the role.  Our current funding is about to run out and the management committee are working hard to secure new funding so our core work can continue, as well as developing an expanded programme.  

Thank you to everyone who has helped me personally, too many to list, and also to everyone who has supported all the different initiatives.  I ask for your prayers for the future for Growing Old Grace-fully.  GOG’s work will be in my prayers and I do hope I can continue to be of use in the future as a volunteer.

Rachel Walker, Project Co-ordinator, April 2015- April 2019


50 more Dementia Friends in our Diocese

Thank you to everyone who made me so welcome this month.







Nearly 30 parishioners, including members of the Women’s Group and SVP members, met on a rather blustery Wednesday evening this month at Sacred Heart and St Patrick’s Parish Centre in Sowerby Bridge to  explore ‘Becoming a dementia friendly parish’.  Everyone present became a Dementia Friend and then we capped the evening off with a range of delicious homemade cakes.

Last night, I was pleased to return to St Clare’s in Bradford where I met over 20 parishioners including SVP members from the neighbouring parish of St Francis & Immaculate Conception.  Again, everyone became a Dementia Friend and we had a lively interaction during the session, with a number of people sharing their own touching and enlightening stories of the people they have known and loved who have lived with dementia.  This included how our hearts can ‘squeeze tight with grief’ when someone we love mistakes us for someone else; a daughter is mistaken for the person’s sister or even their own mum.  We talked about how this can be a sign that the person knows we are someone very special who they love very much, even though they are struggling to name us.  The emotions remain even though the memory has been lost.

Here’s a quotation from a lovely blogpost from a painter of Saints, Chris Hart, who expresses this so much better than I can in relation to her own mother.  “I could not begin to understand the greater plan the Almighty might have for us but I could understand the value of sitting with someone who didn’t always remember my name.  She may not recognize me but she recognized love.  She may not have been able to say “I love you” but she could nod when I said “I love you and you love me”.  That is life, love and hope during Ordinary Time.”

If you want to help people in your parish have a better understanding of dementia and the small things we can all do that make a difference in our communities, then get in touch to book a short session at growing.old.gracefully@dioceseofleeds.org.uk .

Rachel Walker, Project Co-ordinator

Obituary for Sister Catherine Houlihan SP

Sister Catherine Houlihan SP died peacefully on Saturday 23rd February. She was known to many in the Diocese of Leeds. She had been an inspirational Headteacher and in Bishop David Konstant’s time was Vicar for Religious. She had also been responsible for bringing the Beginning Experience – a Catholic programme for bereaved, separated and divorced adults – into the UK. Some dioceses had teams who supported many people in Team Ministries to explore their loss and ‘turn a corner’. The Leeds Team, with the guidance of Sr Catherine, helped many people through a difficult period in their lives.


Sr Catherine and Sr Mary Bernard Potter, both Sisters of Charity of St Paul supported Growing Old Grace-fully in its work and offered several days of Reflection for older people. The last one they gave was in Harrogate when Sr Catherine was in her nineties! The Day was supportive and although recognised some of the losses and challenges of older age also was encouraging and optimistic. The Sisters had also taken many people on pilgrimage in the footsteps of St Paul to Cyprus, Turkey and wherever St Paul and his companions ventured, Srs Catherine and Mary B followed on a journey of prayerful pilgrimage, scriptural exploration and companionable meals where many friendships were forged. Many people remember the support they have given over the years spiritually, educationally and in their local parishes.


Sr Catherine will be much missed. Her wise counsel, kind support and encouragement, humour, resilience in illness in recent years, and gentle, prayerful example of living into older age has been an inspiration to countless people. May she rest in peace.

Pippa Bonner

Sr Catherine Houlihan, RIP

Please pray for the family and friends of Sr Catherine Houlihan SP, who died peacefully in Selly Park last Saturday 23rd February.  Sr Catherine’s Funeral will be at St Paul’s Convent, Selly Park, Birmingham on Thursday 14th March at 11am.   For more details, please call St Mary B Potter on 0113 275 8852.

There will be a Mass held in Leeds later: details to be finalised.

 Sr Catherine

Transition into Later Life, Leeds. A course for anyone thinking about retiring.

Transition into Later Life is a two-day course aimed at anyone who is thinking about retirement soon, or in a few years, and wants to prepare positively for the coming changes is being offered in Leeds in April and June. 

Leeds Older People’s Forum “Time to Shine” is offering an opportunity for staff aged 55 and older to attend a Transition into Later Life training course, developed with funding from the Gulbenkian Foundation.

Maybe you have chosen to retire, or are thinking about when you might leave your present job. Maybe you are glad to go, maybe you’re dreading all that freedom or perhaps you are planning a new career in something you love!

This course offers a gentle way to explore, with others going through the same thing, what the years ahead could look like to you and what you can do to make it happen.

Courses during 2019 will be on April 15 & 16th, and June 14 & 17th

If you would like to know more please email or ring Jessica Duffy 0113 2441697 jessica@opforum.org.uk  

The cost is greatly subsidised by Time to Shine Lottery Funding so will cost only £40 to those working for NGOs, £60 to those working for Public Bodies and SMEs and £80 to those working for those working for large businesses.

TTS Whats next flyer DIGITAL

2019 marks 50 years since the first use of ‘ageist’

Robert Neil Butler (January 21, 1927 – July 4, 2010) was a physician, gerontologist, psychiatrist, and author, who was the first director of the National Institute on Aging. Butler is known for his work on the social needs and the rights of older people and for his research on healthy aging and the dementias. He coined the term ageism in 1969 to describe discrimination against older people.

“A process of systematic stereotyping of and discrimination against people because they are old, just as racism and sexism accomplish this for gender and skin colour”

Britain has one of the worst records in Europe on age discrimination according to the European Social Survey 2009, with nearly two out of five people claiming to have been shown a lack of respect because of how old they are. 

Although I couldn’t find any specific pronouncement against ageism from the Church, Catholic Teaching supports the dignity of all people (from the unborn to the elderly) and is against discrimination. That means that, by implication, the Church is against ageism and is for the respectful treatment of people of all age.

Rachel Walker


How welcoming is your parish to older people? Results of our survey

Thank you to everyone who completed our 10-question survey on how they feel their parish welcomes older people, to help us think about where we should focus our future efforts. 

About the survey

Each question asked for a level of agree-disagree response to statements on:

  • Accessibility of buildings
  • Emotional and practical support for older people
  • Intergenerational activities
  • Social and spiritual activities for older people
  • Emotional and practical support for carers
  • Support for people living with dementia, loss or bereavement
  • Demographics of parish volunteers
  • Connections to Care Homes

Each statement also allowed the respondent to include a comment.  The survey’s final question was to ask for one thing their parish could do better to welcome older people.


We had an encouraging response of over 40%.  The depth of engagement offered helpful insight as the majority of respondents added a qualifying comment after each statement.


There was a mainly positive response to the statements which probably is a reflection on views of parish life; a sense of ownership, belonging, mutual caring and spiritual support.  However, the qualifying comments point to an appetite and a need for more coordinated and structured support for older people:

  • Provision is patchy… a parish lottery
  • Lack of systems or processes mean some older people slip through the net
  • Parish responses are more down to the notice of individuals
  • Church stands out as a place where generations mix at Mass, but there’s less evidence of more structured opportunities for support/learning
  • Programmes addressing the spirituality of ageing or taking ageing seriously were not mentioned
  • Not enough structured programmes to help support people in bereavement, or anything specific that helps people cope with the varied losses that can come with long life.

Conclusions and next steps

The response to the survey suggests that, although parish life generally offers a sense of belonging, real ownership, caring and spiritual food, in practice provision is patchy; a parish lottery.  Some older people inevitably ‘slip through the net’ and are most at risk of becoming isolated from their parish at those crisis points that bereavement, chronic health conditions and multiple morbidities present.

We see a need to increase the scale and the scope of our work and we are currently looking at how we fund an expanded programme of work up until April 2022.  If you know of any Charitable Trust funders who might be interested in supporting our expanded programme, we would be so grateful if you could let us know.

If there have been any new developments in your parish, or anything else you would like to share, please email growing.old.gracefully@dioceseofleeds.org.uk .

Thank you again to everyone who took the time to complete our survey.

Leeds Diocese – Dementia Friendly Carol Service, 8th December 2018

Thank you to everyone who supported the first Dementia Friendly Service of Lessons and Carols at the Cathedral Church of St Anne this weekend.

The children from Holy Rosary and St Anne’s Catholic Primary School sang beautifully and their teachers Jo and Liz were there to lead them.  One person said “The choir were just beautiful. I could have listened to them and watched them all afternoon. Gorgeous expressions and good little singers. A credit to the school.”

Nearly everyone came next door to Wheeler Hall after the Service for mince pies and mulled wine.  Thanks to Tesco Express St Paul’s store who donated a lot of the refreshments.  It was a warm gathering with old friends reconnected and new friends made, despite wet and windy weather and the night drawing in.

“Yet, in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting light; the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.”  Phillips Brooks

If your parish would like to hold a Dementia Friendly Service of Lessons and Carols then here is more information and our Service Booklet.

1M+ older people with no children… who can be their support?

There are now over 1 million people aged over 65 in the UK who have never been parents, and this will double to 2 million by 2030. There are many more not living near their children or who don’t have contact with them.

Understanding what it means to be ageing without children and how it affects people in later life is going to be crucial for individuals and for organisations who plan and commission and deliver services. 

Our trustee, Ann West, attended a workshop in Bradford recently, organised by Postive Minds Bradford,  that looked at this issue of ageing without children, exploring the impact it has on individuals, services and the community and what changes need to be made.

Ann reports “The first presentation by Kirsty Woodward, founder of Ageing Without Children , was a real eye opener.”  The facts are that 92% of informal care is provided by family and 80% of older people with disabilities are cared for by either their spouse or adult children. The older a person is, the more likely they are to be cared for by their adult child. This year, for the first time, more older people need care then there is family available to provide it.

There event included discussion groups to generate creative ideas and a very powerful drama presentation from The Real People Theatre Company on issues that can be present in later life including dementia, domestic violence and addiction.