Across the Archdiocese of Philadelphia on Sunday mornings, the faithful of the Church gather. Many are long-standing parishioners who have supported the Church for decades, raised their families in the Church and are now aging in the Church.
Catholic Health Care Services is attuned to the needs of our aging parishioners and has launched eldercare programs for parish communities in a number of locations. Care Managers in these programs educate older parishioners regarding the many choices available to them and help families navigate the complex world of public and private healthcare and general aging services. A good example comes from St. Monica Parish in South Philadelphia.
Mary, a parishioner of St. Monica’s since 1948, is 96 years old and needed support to remain in her home and parish. She spent many years of her life caring for her husband, who had a long-term illness, and supporting him and their son by working in a tailor shop. Mary’s resolve, willpower and faith allowed her to remain independent for many years, despite having serious chronic medical conditions herself.
A care manager from the St. Monica Eldercare Program worked to meet her physical and spiritual needs. A parish volunteer visited Mary twice-a-week, assisting with linen changes, laundry, and neighborhood shopping. Monthly Communion visits and connection to the Prayer Partners program with children from St. Monica School lifted Mary spiritually. To stay safely in her home, Mary was connected to city programs for home repairs, which provided a “lift chair” that allowed her to get in and out of the chair comfortably. Once, on a very cold day, her care manager even worked some “magic” and got a repairman to fix the faulty heater in Mary’s home!
As Mary’s needs increased, St. Monica’s Eldercare Program was right there to facilitate the application for home care and ensure that she received the personal attention she needed on a daily basis. The parish volunteer continues to visit her every week and her care manager is poised to address any problems that may arise in the future. Mary feels blessed every day to be in her beloved home, in her parish, thanks to the support and guidance that she receives from the St. Monica Eldercare Program.
Mary’s story is not unique; many other seniors need the same kind of help. Recognizing the effectiveness of St. Monica’s Eldercare Program (which has been in operation since 2003), Catholic Health Care Services expanded with programs at Holy Saviour and St. Andrew the Apostle in 2015. The hope is that this parish-based approach to caring for senior members of our Church continues to expand so that more parish communities will be blessed by its fruits.