Story and photos by LIZ QUIRIN
It couldn’t have been a more perfect day for a picnic for residents of long-term care facilities, and the diocesan Ministry to Sick and Aged – MSA – couldn’t have been more delighted.
About 175 residents and staff from 14 long-term care facilities gathered June 7 at the Diocesan Pastoral Care Center for the picnic.
On 40th anniversary of the picnic, Father Eugene Neff, MSA director, remembered why the ministry began to host outdoor picnics.
“The plan was for holistic wellness,” Father Neff said. To minister in this way, physical, spiritual, psycho-social and pastoral needs must be considered.
They already have a lot on their plates. At that age, the majority of people encounter a variety of problems, including diseases like Alzheimer’s, arthritis, and vision loss, which frequently calls for a number of treatments like laser eye surgery, therapies, and so on. An event like this can give them new life. They can socialize, get some fresh air, and converse with others their own age.
Basically, Father Neff said: “We’re trying to tell them (with the picnic) that we care about you and want you to get some fresh air.”
Hosting a picnic requires planning and help. Many organizations offer assistance, and many people volunteer on the day of the picnic. These types of events work as a kind of recreation for the elderly and can help them improve. The caregivers can also take shift notes on the progress of these people, which can help them decide whether more such events need to be planned.
Catholic War Veterans and the Ladies Auxiliary prepare the food. Young volunteers from area parishes assist in seating the guests and serving them with beverages and their meal.
The young people came from St. Teresa in Belleville, St. Joseph in Lebanon, St. Michael in Paderborn and St. John in Smithton St. Clare in O’Fallon, St. George in New Baden, Queen of Peace in Belleville and Sacred Heart in Dupo.
In the early days, the late Colette Kennett invited youth and served with them during the day, but now Fr. Neff sends an invitation to parishes to invite youth groups.
To help celebrate the 40th anniversary of the picnic, Bishop Edward K. Braxton greeted people at every table at the pastoral center. He paused for photos and greeted priests present, including Bishop Stanley Schlarman, now retired, who attended the picnic.
“It’s wonderful,” the bishop said of the picnic. It is wonderful to recognize 40 years of serving those who live in long-term care facilities.
In his remarks, the bishop spoke of St. John Paul II’s letter to the elderly, written in 1999.
The saint said, in part: “Elderly people help us to see human affairs with greater wisdom because life’s vicissitudes have brought them knowledge and maturity.”(10)
Bishop Braxton said those who serve the elders are in a very visible way, people who live the Gospel. Caring for the elderly is important within communities, they offer so much support and wisdom through their years, that is why when they need help, such as giving them home care, putting them into something like Omaha assisted living, or wherever they are moving to, it needs to be done with the utmost respect and care.
He thanked the elders for coming, for being an example to the youth. He pointed out the great lesson being demonstrated to and through the elders and youth.
“Where you are, we once were,” he said the elders could tell the young people, and “where we are, you one day will be.”
Food for thought, indeed.