Togetherness Builds Community at St Clare’s, Bradford

I was delighted to be invited to the First Anniversary Celebration of the Parish of St Clare Relax and Craft Group yesterday.

Fr Stephen celebrated Mass and Sr Catherine gave a reflection starting with the Gospel reading – the story of Martha and Mary.  Sr Catherine said the Relax and Craft Group was designed to embrace the gifts of both Mary and Martha.  Members of the group are busy working whilst at the same time creating space to listen to each other.

Sr Catherine went on to thank all the people who’d been involved in the group since it started a year ago including Fr Stephen, the Community Centre Committee and all the people who attend.

Sr Catherine asked everyone to look at the blanket of knitted squares on display, completed by the group.  “You will find out motto ‘Togetherness Builds Community’ attached to it.  We try to live by this as it expresses our guiding ideal.  We constantly need to strengthen the sense of community in our parish and in our city and build bridges not walls.  Working together, we human beings can accomplish amazing good,” she explained.


“God has provided among us all the giftedness and talents needed for building up the community,”  Sr Catherine continued.  “The challenge is to go on encouraging and inviting those blessed with talent and ability to share these gifts with others.  Let us continue to Aspire, to Inspire before we Expire.”


Here are some of the comments the group members have made to Sr Catherine:

“I feel needed and feel good about myself.”

 “I have never felt so alive.”

 “I feel trusted and can share my innermost feelings.”

 “I enjoy the craft and meeting everyone.”

Thank you for inviting Growing Old Grace-fully to hear your inspiring story.

Rachel Walker, Project Co-ordinator 

Our first Roadshow session at Blessed John Henry Newman Parish

Rachel Walker from Growing Old Grace-fully  and Rachel Beedle from Catholic Care Older People’s Services led a short session to explore how the parish of Blessed John Henry Newman might continue to celebrate the gifts of older people, as well as support people in some of the challenges that may come along as we age.

The session used the recently published guide “Welcoming Older People – ideas for and from parishes” in considering how we need to cherish the blessings of later life as well as address the challenges, and how parishes have a really important role in being ‘little places of belonging’.

Parish members shared some of the wonderful activities already happening including the thriving Retirement Club which takes place every Monday and has over 100 members.  This led to Rachel Beedle talking with great enthusiasm about some of the smaller Friendship Clubs that Catholic Care are supporting, including the one that meets on a Tuesday afternoon in St Joseph’s Church Hall, Harrogate.

Both Rachels would like to thank both the people who attended for their warm welcome, and also those who made the session possible for their support.

If you are interested in arranging a session on how your parish can continue to be a ‘little place of belonging’ for older people, please contact Rachel on 07702 255142.  If you would like to know more about Friendship Groups, and other groups for older people in our Diocese supported by Catholic Care, please call 0113 388 5400 or email .

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 .

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


Thank you to our Trustees

This week, 31st October-6th November, is Trustee’s Week and I want to say a massive


to all our trustees for their enthusiasm and commitment, as well as the skills and wisdom they have brought to direct Growing Old Grace-fully‘s work in the Diocese.

More discussion

Paul, Ann, Anne, Carol, Pippa, Cath and Fr Peter are all volunteers and all bring different skills  and experience to the role, but they all share a desire to support parishes in welcoming older people.

If you also believe we should cherish the blessings of age and think parishes need more support to help value the gifts of older people, then I would love to talk to you.  We are looking for Trustees to help make a difference at an exciting time as we develop new ideas and deliver new projects.  The role would require about 4 hours a month of your time. 

For more information please email me at or call me on 07702 255142.

Rachel, Project Development Officer

Memory loss and the needs of the Irish community

Growing Old Grace-fully were so pleased to be invited to an event at Leeds Irish Centre by Leeds Irish Health & Homes, to hear the findings of some recent research into memory loss and the needs of the Irish community.

One of the findings of this research that struck home with me was the importance of being with people who understand our culture when we are living with dementia; people who speak our language either literally or figuratively speaking.  A friend told me that dementia took away her Polish-born mum’s ability to speak English, even though she was a fluent English speaker for 50 years, but her mum could still speak Polish.

You can read more about the event here

Being with people who understand our culture is part of feeling we belong.  It’s why we need to work hard to ensure that people who have been part of the parish life do not feel excluded if they develop dementia.   Please think about whether your parish could run a short session on Becoming a Dementia-Friendly Parish which Growing Old Grace-fully would be delighted to run.

Rachel Walker



More Dementia Friends in Leeds Diocese

st-john-the-evangelist-2Mary Mother of God, Bradford, are now the 5th Parish in our Diocese to start the process of becoming a recognised ‘dementia-friendly Parish’.

Thank you to everyone who attended ‘Becoming a Dementia-Friendly Parish’ session on Tuesday 20th September.   Growing Old Grace-fully was given such a warm welcome, which started with evening mass.   17 people each became a Dementia Friend, including two people from the local community who are not parishioners.

We discovered that many of us know people with dementia, or we may be living with the disease ourselves.  It was a privilege to share our stories and, in this sharing, remove some of the fear and stigma around dementia.  Being a dementia-friendly parish offers an opportunity to reach out to those who are most vulnerable and voiceless in society and to show the love of God in action.

Thank you again to all who attended, to Sharon for organising the event and to Fr Paul for his kind words on the parish Facebook



Liverpool – a dementia-friendly Archdiocese

Liverpool are the first Roman Catholic Archdiocese to join the Dementia Action Alliance – so they can display this badge.

Dem Friendly logo

Being Dementia-Friendly means being Later-Life-Friendly.  We would be so delighted if Leeds Diocese were the next Diocese to join.

You can read about Liverpool’s plans in this article from the July edition of their magazine Dementia-friendly Church article ArchDiocese of Liverpool


More Dementia Friends in our Diocese… it’s growing!

Dementia Friends at St Joseph's

St Joseph’s, Wetherby are now the 4th Parish in our Diocese to start the process of becoming a recognised ‘dementia-friendly Parish’.

Thank you to all the people who attended ‘Becoming a Dementia-Friendly Parish’ session on Monday 18th July.   Growing Old Grace-fully was given such a warm welcome on a very warm evening, and 15 people each became a Dementia Friend.

A dementia-friendly Parish is one where people with dementia are understood, respected and supported and are confident they can contribute to Parish life.

2016'07'18 Dementia Certificate from Bradford DAAEarlier the same day, Growing Old Grace-fully received our Award from Bradford & District Dementia Action Alliance (DAA), in recognition of our work.  Here’s Trustee Ann West receiving our Certificate from Chris North of Bradford DAA.

Would you like you like your Parish to think about growing in dementia-friendliness?  Please email Rachel at or call 07702 255142 to book your session or find out more.