How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!

Leeds Homeshare is a scheme that aims to prove the opening words of Psalm 133 to be true.


The scheme carefully matches an older person, who might need some help to live independently in their own home, with someone who has a housing need.  In  return for providing low cost accommodation, the older person gets a minimum of 10 hours of help with daily living tasks like cleaning, shopping, gardening or  walking the dog.

But it’s really about companionship, about living with someone in unity and, as the Psalm says, it can be so ‘good and pleasant’.  It can help older people stay independent and in their own home for longer and offers companionship and new relationships for both the homeowner and the homesharer.

It’s a safe and supported arrangement, with Shared Lives in Adult Social Care taking references, checks and assessments to help ensure risk and safeguarding issues are well managed.

If you have a spare room and would be interested in having a chat about this, with no obligations, then please call Cath Ormerod on 0113 378 5410 or email  More details can be found here Homeowner leaflet .

Times of Waiting

In the course of our life, many of us will experience periods of hospitalisation, which also carry with them a loss of control. And nearly everyone has to spend some time as an out-patient.  The longer we live, the more likely we are to find ourselves in hospital. But whether an in-patient or an out-patient, it inevitably means we are forced to spend a lot of time waiting.

Mgr Peter Rosser, a trustee of Growing Old Grace-fully, was asked to give a talk about “Time from the perspective of a patient” where he reflects on his own experience of spending time waiting at the disposal of medical personnel.  Here is an excerpt:


“Recently I came across a CTS pamphlet entitled ‘Five Loaves and Two Fish’ .  It contains a series of 7 reflections by Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan written during his imprisonment in Vietnam.  At one point he realised that he was enduring the hours of imprisonment as lost time while he awaited release.  It led him to see that the hours of waiting could be valuable in themselves.


In his book “Road of Hope” written during his incarceration, he wrote “I will not wait. I will live the present moment, filling it to the brim with love”.  He goes on “Only one moment exists for you in all its beauty and that is the present moment.  Live it completely in the love of God.  If your life is built up like a large crystal from millions of such moments, it will be a wonderfully beautiful life.  Can’t you see how easy it could be?”


V H Vanstone in his book ‘The Stature of Waiting’ develops a similar and very pertinent reflection. He develops the point that after three years of active ministry, in a position of control over his life and decisions, Jesus then voluntarily allows himself to be handed into the power of others.  At this point he becomes a waiting figure, waiting on others’ decisions and actions.  He becomes utterly vulnerable and a true expression of the full cost of unconditional love.


This perception throws an entirely new light on our experiences of waiting and of dependence. The situation of waiting is generally resented: it is regarded as frustrating, and considered a diminution of man’s proper status.  But given that we are made in the image of God and called to reveal his nature through faithfully imaging Him in our world, our times of waiting, of being in the control of others and thus utterly vulnerable, take on new significance and importance.


In our activity we reveal God’s loving, creative activity on behalf of this world. But in our passivity (our waiting) we reveal to the world the equally important passivity of God which is the ultimate expression of his unconditional love.  Our waiting takes on a whole new stature and meaning.”


Here is the whole transcript of Fr Peter’s talk, Healthcare Talk January 2017 Fr Peter Rosser


Richest Blessings for Christmas

lovecamedown-picLove came down at Christmas,

Love all lovely, love divine,

Love was born at Christmas,

Star and angels gave the sign.

Christine Rossetti (1830-94)


Dear friend

The period before Christmas can be a particularly busy one.  Here at Growing Old Grace-fully we too have been swept up in the busyness as we have been developing a pack of ideas for and from parishes to help in “Welcoming Older People” which we are hoping to launch early in 2017.

We want this pack of ideas to inspire practical actions that support the growth of later life friendly parishes in our own Diocese of Leeds, as well as beyond our Diocese.  It is our hope and our prayer that this pack really makes a positive difference when it comes to support older people and valuing their gifts.  Every topic we consider focuses on “What your parish can do” in a variety of areas including:

  • Vocation in Later Life
  • Growing a Dementia-Friendly Parish
  • Being Mortal
  • Tackling Loneliness
  • Caring for Carers.

We are so grateful to have been given a generous donation towards the production of this pack by The Grail Society.  This means we can get the pack designed and laid out to make it easy to use.  We aim to have printed packs available by Spring 2017, and we hope the 8 Chapters will be available even earlier for downloading on our website.  We will make sure we let you know when they are ready, as well as how to get your copy.

In last year’s Christmas Newsletter, we included an excerpt from a talk by John Bell of the Iona Community who made the surprising statement that “Advent and Christmas are about old people”.

Last Christmas Day, on Radio 4’s “Thought for the Day”, John developed this idea in more detail.  He spoke about preaching at midnight mass in Dundee when he asked the congregation:

3-wise-kids“I wonder who among us was once a shepherd?  I wonder who among us was once a wise man?  There was an outburst of laughter when I asked who had once been the hind legs of the donkey.”

John continues:

“For many people, their introduction to the Christmas story will have been through taking part as a child in a school or church nativity play. Maybe this explains the origin of the phrase, ‘Christmas is a time for the children.’

 The irony of it all is that there are no children with leading roles in the Christmas story. Jesus was not born in a kindergarten surrounded by infants wearing their father’s dressing gown or their mother’s tea towels.

 3-wise-menMost of the main players are old – Elizabeth, Zechariah, Simeon and Anna have their elderly status clearly underscored in the Bible. The Shepherds would not be toddlers; and the wise men wouldn’t be wise unless they were old. In those days wisdom did not come through attaining a Ph.D in your mid-twenties.

 The Christmas story is, rather, about God expecting older people to enable a new and surprising thing to happen.

 I saw this truth alive and well last week when I visited a Roman Catholic church hall which has become the welcome centre for Syrian refugees. Most of those helping out were retired.  None had experience of relating to Arabic speaking Muslims before. But like the people in the nativity story they felt somehow summoned to welcome and enable a new thing to happen.

 So if you once were a shepherd or an angel or even the hind legs of the donkey, don’t let Christmas simply be a time for regression therapy…..particularly when now as always, God is looking for older people to be the midwives of the new things that need to happen.”

John Bell, Christmas Day 2015, Radio 4


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

 We wish all Growing Old Grace-fully’s friends and supporters God’s richest blessings for Christmas and the coming year.

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

Paul Grafton, Trustee      Cath Mahoney, Trustee              Mgr Peter Rosser, Trustee

Rachel Walker, Project Worker             Ann West, Trustee


“There is nothing ordinary about Ordinary Time!”

As we send out our latest GOG news to you we are in the 10th week of Ordinary Time. (The definition of the word Ordinary in this context comes from the Latin word Ordo which means order, and the weeks of Ordinary Time are numbered rather than given specific names.) The Roman Catholic Church and many others define Ordinary Time as all the time outside Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter. It comprises 33-34 weeks of the 52 week year, so is actually most of our lives!

We are perhaps back into our routine, after the lows of Lent and the highs of Easter and Pentecost. Most of us spend our daily lives in more middling rhythms and ordinary routines. Writers like Joan Chittister and Margaret Silf write about  Ordinary Time emphasising that we can find God in all things and in everyone. This may be difficult if we feel isolated, are currently anxious about our lives, if we or others are ill, or are grieving someone close to us. As we grow older bereavement and illness may be more evident in our daily lives.

However: so is our experience evident, (if not to ourselves, to others), and the wisdom gained from it. Perhaps we have time to notice the small as well as the big things. In no particular order: we may appreciate more the abundant nature around us as it transforms from spring to summer colours, a sunset, a lovely building, the families and children around us (whether we have our own children or not) who are becoming older. We may remember them as babies and now see what they are doing! We may have time to stop and chat, to “sit and stare”, to encourage others, to watch our favourite TV programme, to give and receive everyday support and kindnesses and to appreciate quietly the work of those around us. We are all still working (even if it is not paid work) in our homes, parishes, volunteering in our communities, thinking about the wider world, donating time and money, signing petitions, voting, smiling and talking to others we see every day. If we cannot get out much we can approach the challenges of daily life of getting through the living of the day as work. We can all think and pray about those around us. St Therese of Lisieux wrote about doing small things well, with great love for God and others. In many ways older people can be the binding glue in their community’s daily lives, just as Ordinary Time is the important binding glue in the daily life of the Church’s liturgical year.

So, in our ordinary everyday lives, we never know how significant are our daily tasks and prayers for others. Recently I noticed a person who seemingly cannot hear, move or remember very much these days. She sits and prays most of the time and has the most wonderful smile.  Everyone notices her and feels her warmth and encouragement. Daniel O’Leary says “When we see the presence of God in our most ordinary, daily routines, and in the darkness we often experience, then our lives are transformed.” God is in that smile!

 Best wishes in Ordinary Time!
Pippa Bonner

Dying Matters Awareness Week (9th-15th May).

Talking about dying can be awkward and painful, but according to recent research 71% of the public agree that if people in Britain felt more comfortable discussing dying, death and bereavement it would be easier to have our end of life wishes met (ComRes 2015).

The Dying Matters coalition was founded in 2009, and was set up to encourage people to talk more openly about dying, death and bereavement, as well as thinking ahead for when their time inevitably comes.

Dying Matters 2016Every year, Dying Matters have a dedicated Awareness Week, which is committed time for people to have these conversations.

To support this hugely significant week, there are a number of events happening around our Diocese:



St Gemma’s will be holding a Dying Matters event at Leeds Museum on Tuesday 10th May and are inviting people to come and talk about death, dying, planning, funerals, bereavement… if it’s on your mind, come and talk it through with our experts.



Funeral homes in the Bradford area are inviting local people to join them for a coffee, cake and a chat – it’s a simple as that.  Pop into your nearest funeral home and a member of the team will be delighted to speak with you Bradford’s Big Conversation for Dying Matters Awareness Week on Tuesday 10th, Wednesday 11th and Thursday 12th May, between 11am and 1pm.

A group of staff and students at the University of Bradford, along with external partners, are inviting people to a free interactive conference on Monday 16 May, 9-4.30pm, looking at compassionate communities. The group is also hosting a death café in the Atrium on Tuesday 17 May and there will be another held at Marie Curie Hospice Bradford on Thursday 19 May. Both take place 10am – 4pm and provide a natural space for conversations about death and dying.


Growing Old Grace-fully have developed a workshop which provides a safe space for people to explore these sensitive issues, including what our own Catholic perspective offers.  If your Parish are interested in holding a Living Well, Dying Well workshop, or simply want to know more, please call Rachel on 07702 255142 or email .


Easter Newsletter

resurrection crossThis Eastertide,
May we be blessed with the promise of rebirth wherever we are and whoever we may be.
May the birds carol and rejoice that we are all alive under one sky
May our spirits unfurl like a sunflower following the arc of light
And may we all feel the blessing of this good earth And rejoice in the good news of this Easter and a Joyful Springtime.
(adapted from an  Irish blessing)

Dear friend

After a long wet and windy Winter, what a joy it is to see the world around us coming back to life with spring flowers, fresh buds, blossoms, birds singing their hearts out, new born lambs. All these wonderful signs of life continually renewed.

At Growing Old Grace-fully we have been thinking and praying about where we need to focus our efforts in the coming year – a renewal of our approach.  We have asked the questions “What is the difference we want to make in the Diocese?” and “What are the changes we would like to see in the parishes relating to older people and later life by 2018?”

Our purpose has not changed.  We will continue to seek to raise awareness of the spiritual and practical needs of older people, and their contribution to our communities across the Diocese of Leeds.  We want to focus more of our efforts on inspiring and supporting practical actions within the parishes by:

  • Sharing best practice through our website
  • Helping create local solutions to local needs
  • Offering information, support and advice to parishes
  • Encouraging dementia-friendly parishes.

The spiritual needs of people with dementia, and their carers, is often overlooked.  To be a dementia-friendly parish is to find ways to include people with dementia so that they are helped to experience life in all its fullness.  Rachel Walker, our project worker, is a Dementia Champion and is leading a number of short sessions on Becoming a Dementia-Friendly Parish at:

  • St Joseph’s, Pudsey                 Monday 18th April, 7.30pm-8.30pm
  • St Walburga’s, Shipley            Tuesday 19th April, 7.45pm-8.45pm
  • Corpus Christi, Leeds 9          Wednesday 18th May, 7.00pm-8.00pm

dementia Autumn leaves imageTo understand how your parish can work towards becoming dementia-friendly, or to discuss other ways of valuing and supporting people in later life, please call Rachel on (07702) 255142 or email . 

God does not value people according to their memory and skills but loves each one of us unconditionally.   The work of Growing Old Grace-fully aims to help the Church to be aware of the effects of mental and physical diminishment on older members, but also to cherish the blessings of ageing… the potential and the joys.  Fr Ralph Woodall SJ writes:

old and young hands“The task and privilege of older people is to gather, appreciate more deeply and treasure the hints of God’s presence that they have known and generously to share the wisdom that they have received as gift from God.

It may be that the wisdom is still implicit: they have not quite appreciated how important have been those occasions in their lives where they have helped others or been helped by others.

Older members of the community should have no need to be independent; they can help others to realise how inter-dependence is part of God’s plan for our lives, for building his kingdom.

This can make older people very precious in the Christian community.”


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

Every Blessing.

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


 Paul Grafton, Chair                      Cath Mahoney, Trustee                 Mgr Peter Rosser, Trustee


Rachel Walker, Project Worker             Ann West, Trustee


Ageing without Children – Our Voices

Did you know that 1 in 5 people over 50 don’t have children and by 2030, there will be 2 million people over 65 without children.

Ageing without Children (AWOC), a charity that aims to help people ageing without children live a later life free of the free fear of ageing alone and being without support, recently held their Annual Conference in Leeds.  This is a topic under reported and under researched and they have produced  an interesting report called “Our Voices – the experiences of people ageing without children”  to raise its profile.

AWOC defines people ageing without children as people over the age of 50 without children in their lives either because they have never been parents or because their children have died, they are estranged from them or they live far away.

 Our Voices details the experiences and thoughts of this previously invisible group of older people.  This report offers more than thinking about who will provide support, help and care to those without children.  People ageing without children say they feel invisible and marginalised –  lacking a place in a family orientated society.  AWOC explain that the report aims to give room for just a few of the stories of people ageing without children to be heard, and that it is time to start to hear more.

Here’s AWOC’s report, our-voices-3 AWOC which can also be downloaded on their website or email






New year, new plans

“Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come”   Alfred Tennyson

At Growing Old Grace-fully we have all sat down together at the beginning of this month to think about where we need to focus our efforts in the coming year.  We have asked the questions “What is the difference we want to make in the Diocese?” “What are the changes we would like to see in the parishes relating to older people and later life by 2018?” So like the Roman God Janus (from which January takes its name) who is depicted with two faces, one looking backwards and one forwards, we have found ourselves reflecting on past events whilst looking ahead to new possibilities.

One of the possibilities we would like to encourage, is to have more dementia-friendly parishes.  Growing Old Grace-fully have registered our plans to be dementia-friendly and you can view our Action Plans here .

If you think your Parish might be interested in working to become dementia-friendly, please call Rachel on 07702 255142 or email .  We can also offer Dementia Friends Information Sessions for Parish groups to help individuals have an understanding of dementia and the small things that you can do that make a difference.


May the God of new beginnings give us hope and encouragement as this New Year opens before us with all its challenges. And may God, creator, Son and comforter be with us now and always. Amen.



Bearing fruit or going to seed? – An Autumn reflection


‘Bearing fruit’ is seen as a very positive image while ‘going to seed’ often indicates that someone is past their best and perhaps even somewhat decrepit.  Yet the farmer and the gardener often strive for plants to go to seed so that the species continues and will fruit another year.

In our Christian lives we are urged to bear fruit and also sow seeds for our own and future generations.

God’s Spirit has given us life and can make our lives fruitful: with love, joy and peace; patience, kindness and goodness; faithfulness, humility and self-control. (Based on Galatians 5.23-25).

The work of Growing Old Grace-fully hopes to encourage older people to celebrate what has been, rejoice in what is and trust in God for what will be shown to us and through us, in the times to come.

Bearing fruit, going to seed… can we still be excited by new opportunities around us, and the chance to offer ourselves in different ways in Christ’s service?  Can we be surprised and rejoice that sometimes our seeds produce an unexpected plant?

This reflection is from resources developed by MHA