A message from the Board – December 2023

Dear Friends,

I am writing as we begin the next four weeks of Advent preparing for the gift of God’s son to the world, to announce that our our period of waiting for a new worker for Growing Old Grace-fully is over!

I am very pleased with funding support from the Diocese, the Day for Life fund of the Bishop’s Conference and Holy Child Sisters, we have engaged a freelance worker to support our work.

Welcome to Greg Mulholland who will be working with us part-time for the next year.

Greg is an experienced communications professional and will build on the excellent work of our previous freelance workers, in taking forward the work of Growing Old Grace-fully and delivering our vision and mission.

We have a clear brief to organise Zoom meetings to support parishes to be more Later Life friendly, as well as working with two parishes more intensely to support them in their work with older people. This is of course on top of our communications to our subscribers and supporters.

Greg says, “I’m delighted to be working with Growing Old Grace-fully, to deliver its important vision and mission in our Diocese and I look forward to working with the Board, volunteers and parishes to help older people across the Catholic Diocese of Leeds experience spiritual, emotional and physical wellbeing in positive and inclusive parish communities”.

We are looking for parishes to work with us on this in the next year. Do please contact us at growing.old.gracefully@dioceseofleeds.org.uk if your parish is interested in taking part in this.

This December mailing includes an Advent reflection from a member of our board of trustees, Pippa Bonner and some suggestions for prayers which you may want to use yourself or share with other parishioners

With blessings for Advent,

Best wishes,

Carol Burns and trustees of Growing Old Gracefully

Book Launch: ‘Journeying Together’ by Deacon Joseph Cortis and Pia Matthews

Please join us as we celebrate the launch of a remarkable book “Journeying Together” that sheds light on the experiences of caregivers for individuals with dementia. Written by Growing Old Grace-fully trustee Deacon Joe Cortis, in collaboration with Pia Matthews, this poignant work gives voice to those who tirelessly care for their loved ones. The book will be officially launched in Leeds on Tuesday, June 27th, at 1:30 pm. To download the poster with further details please click the link below.

Pray with us: Prayers from various authors and a reading from Joan Chittister

God of Hope

God of hope,
we cling to you,
for your renew the face of the earth. 

Through the gift of your Son,
our Lord Jesus,
we follow you on the path of dawn.

Enlightened by your love and wisdom,
help us to lead each other
and all creatures
back to your open arms.

Rachel McCarthy/CAFOD


With expectant waiting
we anticipate your coming.
Come close to us, Lord,
come very close.   

Come, Alpha and Omega,
who is from before the ages.
Come, Son of Joseph and Son of Mary,
who went down to Nazareth to be obedient to them.   

Come, Morning Star,
who named the stars.
Come, carpenter from Nazareth, 
who knows the smell of planed wood.   

Come, Beloved Son of God,
who knows the heart of God.
Come, Son of Man,
who knows the hearts of God’s people. 

Come, Lord of Life and Prince of Peace.
Come, Dayspring and Rising Sun.
Come, Wonderful Counsellor.
Come Emmanuel, God with us;
God very close to us.   


Ged Johnson/CAFOD

Litany of Advent litany: Lord, we look to you of Nazareth

Compassionate God,

As we look to you for judgement, hold out your hand of compassion
that we may be chastened by your show of mercy and reach out to others in reconciliation.

Lord, we look to you
in whom we hope

As we contemplate our end, make us mindful of your promise of a new beginning
that we may share your promise of life and bring hope to those who sit in darkness.

Lord, we look to you
in whom we hope

As we remember Elizabeth in her barrenness, fill us with longing for the birth of a new creation
that we too may be surprised with joy and labour with those who seek to make all things new.

Lord, we look to you
in whom we hope

As John leapt in his mother’s womb, help us so to recognise Christ in friend and stranger
that we may respond in love and learn to serve our neighbour with generosity not judgement.

Lord, we look to you
in whom we hope

As Mary and Elizabeth sought each other, grant us the wisdom to recognise our needs
that we too may seek each other in solidarity and offer strength to the powerless.

Lord, we look to you
in whom we hope

As Mary proclaimed the salvation of the Lord, give us courage to stand alongside the downtrodden
that we may sing of their hopes and join hands to realise their dreams.

Lord, we look to you
in whom we hope
and whom we long to see.

Annabel Shilson-Thomas/CAFOD

Litany of Mary of Nazareth

Glory to you, God of our Creator … Breath into us
new life, new meaning.
Glory to you, God our Savior … Lead us
in the way of peace and justice.
Glory to you, God, healing Spirit … Transform us
to empower others.

Mary, wellspring of peace ………. Be our guide,
Model of strength
Model of gentleness
Model of trust
Model of courage
Model of patience
Model of risk
Model of openness
Model of perseverance

Mother of the liberator ………. Pray for us.
Mother of the homeless
Mother of the dying
Mother of the nonviolent
Widowed mother
Unwed mother
Mother of political prisoner
Mother of the condemned
Mother of an executed criminal

Oppressed woman ………. Lead us to life.
Liberator of the oppressed
Marginalized woman
Comforter of the afflicted
Cause of our joy
Sign of contradiction
Breaker of bondage
Political refugee
Seeker of sanctuary
First disciple
Sharer in Christ’s ministry
Participant in Christ’s passion
Seeker of God’s will
Witness to Christ’s resurrection

Woman of mercy ………. Empower us.
Woman of faith
Woman of contemplation
Woman of vision
Woman of wisdom and understanding
Woman of grace and truth
Woman, pregnant with hope
Woman, centered in God

Mary, Queen of Peace, we entrust our lives to you.
Shelter us from war, hatred and oppression.
Teach us to live in peace, to educate ourselves for peace.
Inspire us to act justly, to revere all God has made.
Root peace firmly in our hearts and in our world.

From: The Fire of Peace: A Prayer Book
Compiled and edited by Mary Lou Kownacki, OSB
Pax Christi USA

Reading: God’s Call to Mary by Joan Chittister

To entitle the call of God to Mary the ‘annunciation’ is, at best, misleading. Somehow or another,‘annunciation’ just doesn’t say it. ‘Cataclysm’, perhaps. ‘Prophecy,’ maybe. But ‘Annunciation. Never.
This, after all was no routine summons. This was an earth shattering, life-changing, revolutionary call.
This was what happens when life is completely turned around, when the house burns down or the job disappears, or the stock market crashes. This was the kind of moment that called for that same kind of
strength and faith and character. And Mary, the woman, though ‘deeply disturbed’ had more than enough of it all. She felt the truth of who she was within her. More than that, she felt the truth of who God is. Mary knew that God’s favour was indeed with her and that was enough to lead her on.
It doesn’t hurt to remember, at times in which extraordinary witness, extraordinary faith, extraordinary commitment are required of us, that God’s favour is there with us too, to sustain the stress of bringing
justice and love to birth and turning the world around – when neither the neighbourhood nor the nation want that to happen.

A reflection for Advent by Pippa Bonner

This year the season of Advent is as long as it possibly can be with the first Sunday of Advent starting on November 27th. Now in the second week of Advent, we continue to prepare for the appearance of Jesus as a tiny baby born in very challenging circumstances. His mother gave birth away from her home town, far from her home and familiar surroundings. Some of her family may have still felt ambivalent about the nature of Mary’s pregnancy. Has Joseph begun to understand it? The Messiah is born in very humble circumstances, soon to become a Refugee.

This year we remember all those born and living in challenging circumstances, born in areas of conflict, like the Holy Land today. This year war is raging in Ukraine, and conflicts around the world are shown daily on our televisions. We remember all who are refugees who are escaping conflict and persecution.

We pray that the hope and joy of Christmas will also be experienced in these difficult times.

Advent is a time of acknowledging paradox. A time of hope and celebration amidst personal and world difficulty, bereavement, illness and loss.

At Growing Old Grace-fully we celebrate the role, gifts and experience of older people. Joseph is traditionally described as an older man. Mary and Jesus must have benefited from his life experience. The Shepherds and Magi may have been mixed age groups: older Shepherds guiding and overseeing the younger ones. It is likely the Magi had a lifetime of study and experience. We know that the Holy Family travelled to Jerusalem to present Jesus in the Temple. They were met by the elderly Simeon and Anna who had been awaiting the Messiah. Let us celebrate them all!

We remember all older people, locally and around the world. Some who are among family and friends, and others who are alone, those fearing food and heating prices, and all who are juggling the blessings and difficulties of older age. Many of us are dealing with the push and pull of life: happy and sad memories of experience and life itself. And if we believe we no longer have a place or sense of agency in life these words of Pope Francis might be encouraging:

“Of one thing I am certain – every human being reveals something of God …a spark of divine light shines from each one of us…every human being has been taken up into the heart of God, conferring on them an infinite divinity.”

The coming of Christ is the joyful, welcoming of the Messiah. And we also know that the incarnate Christ dies and is resurrected for us. My eight year old granddaughter has expressed this paradox (unprompted by me), in her home made Christmas card to me this year. Inside a cheery, snowy, animal card she has drawn a crucified Christ with the heading ” Jesus dies for our sins. ” Behind the cross is Father Christmas and his reindeer and sleigh, and happy Christmas wishes and love from her to me. She has captured the joy and sadness we experience during this season of the Church year.

However, Advent culminates with Christmas. We live with the hope and happiness of Christmas. May you all feel the hope and blessings of Christmas!

Here is part of Joyce Rupp’s “A Christmas Blessing.”

May you give and receive love generously. May this love echo in your heart like the joy of church bells on a clear December day….

May the hope of this sacred season settle in your soul. May it be a foundation of courage for you when times of distress occupy your inner land….

May you daily open the gift of your life and be grateful for the hidden treasures it contains…

May you keep your eye on the Star within you and trust this Luminescent Presence to guide and direct you each day….

May you go often to the Bethlehem of your heart and visit the One who offers you peace. May you bring this peace into our world.”

May you all feel the hope and happiness of Christmas and a blessed New Year!

Pippa Bonner

Pastoral Worker for Older people – seed funding to start a role in 2 parishes

With many people living longer and the current demographic of our churches, you are probably finding that the needs of older people in your parish are increasing.

Many parishioners go out of their way to help others as much as they can, and SVP and other groups are an essential support to many older people. These informal and formal networks of love and inclusion work well in many situations. However, with the increased need, the effects of the pandemic, and the fact that some of those volunteering are themselves feeling vulnerable, resources are stretched and some older people are at risk of slipping through the net or becoming disconnected.

Walking with Older People in their Journey through Later Life

In response to this need, Growing Old Grace-fully approached funders with an idea for a Pastoral Worker/Lay Chaplain for Older People role, to see if it could be trialled in some parishes in the Diocese of Leeds.

The Ladies of the Grail caught the vision for this demonstration project and generously awarded some seed funding to be used in our Diocese.

What would a Pastoral Worker/Lay Chaplain do?

In partnership with the Parish Priest and Eucharistic Ministers, and working closely with relevant parish groups such as the SVP, a Lay Chaplain’s role would be to be an important point of contact for older people in the parish (as well as their families and carers) particularly in terms of their spiritual and emotional life, but with a whole-life approach.

They would use a person-centred listening approach with warmth, compassion, humour and mutual respect, enabling older people to:

  • be strengthened on their journey
  • be more connected and included in parish life
  • have their contributions valued
  • access support for practical needs.

We have seed funding to help 2 parishes set up and test this model with someone fulfilling this role a few hours a week.

We are now seeking expressions of interest from parishes in the Diocese and have recently sent information about this to all priests through the Ad Clerum.

If you are interested in this idea and feel your parish could benefit from this scheme, we would encourage you to speak with your priest and others in the parish to explore the possibilities, and then contact us (see below).


If you have any queries, please do contact our Development Officer Rhoda Wu on growing.old.gracefully@dioceseofleeds.org.uk, she will be happy to help.

The Synodal Process – a response from Growing Old Grace-fully

As well as being involved in each of our parishes, the trustees of Growing Old Grace-fully wanted to highlight the voice and needs of older people in this listening process.

A group of the board members got together and drew up a response on the relevant topics in the framework, this is what we submitted:

Growing Old Grace-fully – response to the Synod listening exercise in the Diocese of Leeds

Growing Old Grace-fully is an independent charity based in the Diocese of Leeds and have been working in the diocese for over 10 years.

Our aim is to:

To enhance the spiritual, emotional, and physical wellbeing of older people across the Catholic Diocese of Leeds through raising awareness, inspiring and supporting responsive action in parishes.

We are making a separate submission based on our substantial experience of listening to older people in our parishes.

The term ‘older people’ covers a very wide age range and several life stages: in our society, younger older people (60+) may enjoy (depending on their life chances) 20 years or so of active life with good health, when they will volunteer in their community including the parish, provide childcare for grandchildren and may be supporting older relatives and friends, at the same time. For many, this will be followed by a period of declining health when support from family or agencies is needed before death.

Longer life is a great blessing for individuals and families and for wider society but the later stages of life present challenges to the individual, to those who love them and to wider society, as health declines and the need for support and care increases.  Life expectancy is increasing in most countries in the world and different issues arise depending on the relative proportions in the population of younger and older people.

Longer life expectancy – a sign of our time – needs to be pondered to discern what God is saying to us and how we should respond. A theme of Growing Old Grace-fully’s work is the vocation of later life: ‘Called to be Old’.

(Another feature of our time is the decrease in the number of priests and religious in the local church, many of whom are themselves older people. How can we ensure that they continue to be included, supported and able to contribute their wisdom and experience?)

Who are our journey companions and who is marginalised?

Older people often have a wide network of friends in the parish whom they have known over many years and take for granted that these people are their companions in life and in faith. There may not be explicit faith sharing unless people belong to a group which prays, reflects and acts together but there is an implicit bond.

As friends die and perhaps the composition of the parish changes, older people are likely to feel more isolated. If they become housebound, they are likely to lack companions on their faith journey especially if their family members have lost connection with Church.

If people go into a care home, they may become completely cut off from their worshipping community and from the support of the sacraments.

We need (formal and informal) ways to follow up people who ‘disappear’ to find out if they wish to stay in touch with the parish and what support they would like. Quaker meetings appoint members to roles of responsibility – overseers – for a given term: 2 periods of 3 years. Their ‘task is building a community in which all members find acceptance, loving care and opportunities for service.’  Other denominations have ‘pastoral stewards’ and of course often in parishes the SVP can play this role.

We have developed a specific model to formally ensure a more systematic approach to ensuring that our older people are still included in parish life.

A Lay Chaplaincy for Older People in parishes and/or deaneries would fulfill this role. The chaplain will be there to provide a listening presence, companionship, and one-to-one pastoral support for older people in a parish. Their person-centred approach will help them deliver support with warmth, compassion, humour, mutual respect, strength, and hope, aiming to inspire and provide stimulation. More specifically, working closely with relevant parish groups such as the SVP and supported by the Parish Priest, the Lay Chaplain’s role will be to help get to know older people in the parish and particularly those who have mobility issues or other conditions that make them at risk of being isolated.  The Chaplain will be the first port of call for ministering to older people in the parish, particularly at times when sustained spiritual support is most needed.  They will be able to inform the priest when and if sacramental care is needed.  If appropriate and possible, the Chaplain will aim to build a group of volunteers to help to support the work. (we have a small amount of funding to pilot this model).

NOTE: Read more about this model HERE

Listening and speaking out, how might the RC church listen to lay people, women and minorities and those who are not respected?

This question is framed in a way that reveals an underlying assumption that lay folk are not ‘church’.  We believe that ‘we’ are the Church.

Housebound older people and those in care homes are a marginalised group without a voice. Older people have expressed concern that church concentrates on young people and ignores the needs of older members.

In 2018 we asked some of our supporters about their experience of parish life, this reinforced our concern that there is too much reliance on informal connections and that older and other vulnerable people slip through the net and become marginalised.

They also said that 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 are not available.

There are 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.

Listening and speaking out are interdependent: people speak out when they are listened to; otherwise they won’t bother. Intergenerational structures are needed through which people can express their needs, share their insights, listen to the experience of others, and discern how they can contribute and work together for the common good of church and world. (see later response)

Older people have a wisdom, experience and skills that they can share, whether developed from their working life or through being part of the parish community.  We hope that their experience of listening, dialogue, creating and celebrating liturgies, experiencing lay leadership and years of co-responsibility in different ways in their parishes and dioceses, and navigating change in the past will be valued as we journey through the synod process.


The closure of churches in the early part of the pandemic opened opportunities for us to experience liturgies celebrated across the world as well as locally, provided that we are digitally enabled. Some older people who have participated in on-line liturgies would like them to continue; this would be a boon for housebound people as well as those who still do not feel confident about returning to a crowded church.

However, we recognise that most people want to be part of a community that is physically present to each other, for the social interaction as well as celebrating Mass together.

We also need to be aware that some older people are not digitally confident and may feel excluded by too much reliance on online participation

(Some) Older people have also expressed a wish for occasional community celebrations of the Sacrament of the Sick and Reconciliation.

Co-responsibility in mission

The experience of Growing Old Gracefully is that as well as those older people who need additional support, many older people are active in their parishes, taking on a range of tasks and running parish groups. They and others may also be active in and/or leading local action: supporting asylum seekers and refugees, homeless people, food banks, isolated older people, looking after vulnerable neighbours, contributing their time, energy and skills (and money) to charities caring for the vulnerable and to campaigns for justice such as development in the global South, combating the climate crisis and many other good causes. They may see these actions as being part of being good citizens; they may know that their involvement springs from their faith and love of neighbour and is part of the Church’s mission. This involvement needs to be recognised and affirmed.

Dialogue between the generations

Pope Francis’ message for World Peace Day 2022, outlined three paths for building lasting peace. One was the “dialogue between generations as the basis for the realisation of shared projects.”

He noted dialogue demands trust between people who need to listen to one another, share different views, reach agreement and walk together. This he says is especially important between generations: “between the keepers of memory – the elderly – and those who move history forward – the young.”

The Pope’s words can apply to international, national and local groups. Within dioceses and parishes who are rebuilding activity after periods of Covid lockdown, different generations are working and praying together, listening to each other and moving forward together. Inter-generational working is key for our religious organisations and churches as we journey through Covid, towards the Synod and beyond.

Some examples of intergenerational dialogue include

  • the older person mentoring younger people in ways of serving their parish. The list can be endless but includes parish ministries, liturgy, prayer groups, and other parish groups and activities. Many older people have experience of lay leadership and co-responsibility with the clergy and are often willing to encourage others to gain confidence and experience as “they pass on the baton.”. 
  • One older parishioner has become friendly with a mother who has spirited young children. She affirms the mother, sits with the family at Mass and helps the mother take them up for a Blessing at Communion. She also lights up the room at parish coffee time. This example will be replicated elsewhere.
  •  Some older people are prayer sponsors, take an interest in younger people and model strength, determination, and humour.
  • Other older parishioners accept help from younger people, accept lifts home and older people also offer lifts to those younger than themselves! At a parish exhibition of photos and reminiscences from past wars older people participated with reminiscences from previous generations about war experiences and helped younger people to hear about the effects of war on local people.

This contribution is based on our work of listening and responding as older people with other older people in the diocese over the last 10 years and we hope that it highlights the gifts that older people bring to the Church and to the needs of the most marginalised.

Some prayers and ideas shared at our Discussion Event on 4th November

About 20 of us met on Zoom on a cold evening with fireworks going off in the background! We had a good time together sharing issues and ideas around starting up and continuing activities and support for older people in our parishes at this strange time of transition.

Sister Bernadette from the Sisters of Mercy led us first in LAMENT remembering the difficult times we have come through and still have to navigate:

“As we gather this evening, we are conscious that we have lived and are living through a pandemic. This is something many of us may have never imagined.”

“The flow of life has changed, our way of life has been affected, and the crisis seems unending. Life has been difficult in so many ways and each person here tonight will be aware of that in some way, as an individual, a family, a colleague in a workplace or as a member of a Parish.”

“Our one constant through this journey of the pandemic has been our God, our companion, our comforter, our hope, our strength, our guide. The God who at times was close or who may have seemed far away.”

After a Lockdown poem, we moved on to expressing HOPE and STRENGTH as we move forward, with the words of Isaiah and prayers of commitment and faith:

We are not people of fear:
We are people of courage.
We are not people who protect our own safety:
We are people who protect our neighbours’ safety.
We are not people of greed:
We are people of generosity.
We are your people God, giving and loving,
Wherever we are,
Whatever it costs,
For as long as it takes
Wherever you call us.

We then broke into 3 DISCUSSION GROUPS on the following themes:

  1. Restarting or starting groups and activities
  2. Online or ‘in person’ or both?
  3. Supporting the vulnerable and reconnecting with the disconnected


With help from Hillary Wadsworth from Time to Shine, some of the themes discussed here were:


Rachel Beedle from Catholic Care who works with their older people’s groups facilitated this group – their main points were:


Mo Crossley from Huddersfield facilitated this group, enabling input from SVP and others, resulting in a good discussion with the following main points:

Feedback showed that attendees enjoyed both the reflections/prayers and the discussions, and we hope it was helpful to all to come together and share ideas and concerns.

We are now starting to plan for some events/content in the Spring on the theme of ‘Finding our Calling in Later Life’ – watch this space (as they say!).

A Second Reflection from an Older Person during Coronavirus-time

I wrote a Reflection in Covid 19 time at the end of March. Four months further on what have I, (what might we,) have learned since?

Looking back on it we have all travelled a long way since March.

At the end of July there are fewer newly infected people and fewer deaths in the UK, but the infection and death rates have been horrifyingly hard.

In other countries rates continue to rise, in some areas where war, poverty and the attitude of some country leaders to the Virus mean infection and death rates in parts of the globe are soaring.

We hope that Covid 19 decreases globally. Many lives have been irrevocably changed. In the UK some people are returning to work. Others have lost their jobs. Many of us can now go out more and our churches, shops and other facilities are opening.

I thank God for the tireless work of scientists, NHS staff, those working in care homes and other essential workers who have toiled thus far. And although some government decisions can be criticised I am grateful that I live in a democratic society where we aim for transparency, we can question what is happening and our health, social and educational services have standards of reasonable governance.

What has happened locally?  

Some of you may have been ill with the Virus, for many there have been life changes, people bereaved and grieving deeply for others who have died, without some of the usual parish community funerals, Requiem Masses, and supportive visits. Zoom and other internet facilities have helped but can only go so far. We hope that our parishes and communities will start to open up more. We also know that many of us are anxious, and worried about our and others’ future, finances, employment and young people’s education.

Many of our parishes and other organisations have been very busy supporting the bereaved, the sick, supporting foodbanks and giving grants for essentials. There have been networks of parishioners keeping in contact with older people, those living alone. families, the newly and chronically impoverished, the homeless, destitute asylum seekers.

Many people have prayed, phoned and supported each other as best we can. Kindness has been flourishing. Hugging does not suit everyone but how many of us have missed this….? 

In our organisations and parishes, we are beginning to think how we can come together in our communities and parishes to memorialise and support each other when the restrictions for Mass attendance and meeting each other are further lifted.

When I last wrote the air was clearer and spring growth was fresh and unfolding new colours and flowers every day. Now, many have returned to work, shops and parks, the school holidays have started, traffic noise has returned, and the deeper, established greens of high summer are around us. If people are able to go on holiday it is more likely be within the UK than abroad. We are fortunate to have sea and beautiful countryside not too far from us.

We are hopeful of finding an effective Vaccine after the final tests are done to ensure its safety and efficacy. Other countries are also exploring different types of vaccination. It is being acknowledged that we will need different vaccines and approaches in different situations.

Health workers are discovering new effective medical procedures to help the very sick, and existing medications are being used in different, effective ways to help more people survive and recover more quickly from the symptoms of the Virus. The pandemic we believe will pass but we will likely be living with spikes of the virus until a vaccine is proved to be safe and works.

Uncertainty remains. Vigilance, hand washing, social distancing, face-coverings and some curtailment of our freedoms is having to be negotiated.  Hopefully with measures like Track and Tracing any recurrence will more likely be spikes on a local basis that can be targeted and treated.

Being on the side-lines

One of the things I have had to learn as an older person is to be more on the side-lines. I am a retired Social Worker and accustomed to being in the midst of someone else’s crisis, bereavement or life changing situation. Now I have found other ways to try and support others. I still work part time in Pastoral Care and while I was furloughed I spent time phoning and emailing those I temporarily could not visit. I am also in touch with fellow parishioners and neighbours and have been very aware of the vulnerability and also the resilience, faith and courage of many I am contacting.

I have learned a lot about the daily courage of most people, particularly older people.

Many older people who are housebound have a wealth, wisdom and freedom of faith which is an anchor in the centre of the Church.

A lot of priests are now older and shielded and when our churches open again fully I hope that more, younger lay people will feel empowered to offer their gifts for parish communities and that their skills and fresh outlook will be considered and valued. And it is important to let younger people come forward, feel empowered and take their place at the forefront, as they are the future….

Roller Coaster of Emotions
I have been very aware of the ups and downs of coping with the challenges of the Virus in everyday life. Sometimes we can feel relieved to be well, safe, taking the struggles of family and friends in our stride. I am enjoying the extra time to read, walk, watch TV and reflect on the many spiritual resources on the internet.

At other times we might feel anxious, sad and despondent. But this is natural and it is important to be aware of our mood and take care of ourselves, as well as others.

For a helpful article on how we can cope with this roller coaster, click HERE

For those of us who attend Mass in we have needed to find ways of “attending” on the internet or phone. I know that many without a computer have read their missals, followed the Mass and the daily readings at home.

My own parish hasn’t been streaming Mass and our sister parish started a pre-recorded Mass after a few weeks. I started off watching “live” Masses at Leeds and Liverpool Cathedrals and eventually found a parish in Leicester where my mother lives. Although I was watching from 100 miles away I felt welcomed by a pastoral, inclusive parish priest who gave us interesting, supportive and inspiring homilies and prayers and the woman organist played her music and choir recordings that linked to the themes of the day. I haven’t missed receiving Communion as much as I thought I would, and I think my understanding of Eucharist has widened. At a time of feeling powerless to alter events I have mostly felt the presence of God in amidst the suffering and grief of so many people.

For details of where you can find Mass and prayers online click HERE

Pope Francis stood in an empty St Peter’s Square in Rome on the 27th March and said:

“This is a time to choose what matters and what passes away, a time to separate what is necessary from what is not. It is a time to get our lives back on track with regard to the Lord and others.”

Living in the moment

I concluded my first Reflection at the end of March with the thought that I hoped I,- we,- might be able to live more in the present: rather than yearning for the past – what might have been – or worry excessively about the future. I think more than ever that it is important to engage in and value the present.

Julian of Norwich, (here quoted by Joan Chittister, in ‘The Gift of Years -Growing Old Gracefully’ DLT London 2008) said that in the acorn she was holding is everything that ever was.

And Joan Chittister writes, “In that tiny burst of life were all the elements of all the life in the world. In this moment is the now of life, is everything we have ever been and will become. And it is calling us, now, to be that to its fullness, and even more.”

Covid 19 is ongoing – and so is our learning….

Living and Dying Well – some useful websites and books

As we are not able to run the conference at this time, we thought we would remind you of some useful websites and books on the topics of living and dying well. We hope you benefit greatly from exploring this content.

Useful Websites for your perusal:

The Art of Dying Well:   https://www.artofdyingwell.org/

This excellent website based on an ancient Catholic tradition called Ars Moriendi offers practical and spiritual support to anyone faced with the prospect of death and dying, including helpful articles and videos.

Christians on Ageing:   https://christiansonageing.org.uk/

A resource for churches: a voice for older people and their life of faith and hope. Interesting articles and up to date news.

Dying Matters:        https://www.dyingmatters.org/

Well known website and movement to help people talk openly about dying, death and bereavement.

Sue Ryder:      https://www.sueryder.org/      

Scroll down on the home page to find their useful publication ‘A Better Death’.

A few recommended books for further reading:

If you click on the title it will take you to where you can read more about the book or purchase it if you wish.

Between Living and Dying: Voices from the Edge of Experience – Ruth Scott

Dear Life: A Doctor’s story of Love and Loss – Rachel Clarke

With the End in Mind: How to Live and Die Well– Kathryn Mannix

The Gift of Years: Growing Older Gracefully – Joan Chittister

God, Me and Being Very Old – Keith Albans and Malcolm Johnson