Spirited seniors gather at basilica to strengthen faith

More than 50 people attended the October meeting of Seniors of the Basilica

WCR PHOTO | CHRIS MILLER

More than 50 people attended the October meeting of Seniors of the Basilica

November 17, 2014
CHRIS MILLER
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

Elderly parishioners of St. Joseph's Basilica are gathering to socialize, strengthen their Catholic beliefs and receive spiritual guidance.

Catherine Ryan and other parish seniors determined that less mobile or physically challenged seniors cannot always get out as often as they would like.

"Wintertime in the city, they slide down sidewalks and maybe even not drive, so although they have Communion taken to them, they love to get to Mass. So we thought once a month, a spiritual experience such as this would be welcomed," said Ryan.

The group, known as Seniors of the Basilica, started meeting back in May in the parish hall, led by Father Miguel Irizar, associate pastor at the time.

"With a lot of prayer and a lot of direction from the Holy Spirit, Father Miguel set up a meeting with a few of us, and we started meeting in the early spring," said Ryan.

Since Irizar's transfer to Villeneuve, Father Kris Schmidt has led the group, which meets on the last Wednesday of every month. The format includes Mass at 12:05 p.m., lunch afterwards, followed by spiritual reflection and a topic of the day until 2:30 p.m.

Almost 50 seniors were gathered for the meeting Oct. 29.

NEVER TOO OLD

Claudette McGee, 79, said no one is ever too old to learn, and that's one reason she enjoys coming out to the meetings.

What has been lacking in her life is the fellowship with people her own age. At the basilica she finds people in search of that same fellowship, and asking some of the same questions. The meetings provide a safe environment to discuss their faith openly.

"It's a wonderful, wonderful opportunity for the seniors to get together. This is something that has been missing here. It's valuable because it answers a lot of the questions that seniors have when it comes to family dynamics, issues about children and grandchildren, and questions of how we should respond to them," said McGee.

SOCIALIZING, SHARING

She views the meetings as much more than a Bible study. She likes the meetings because they are an opportunity for socializing, sharing with others, biblical teachings and learning new things about the Church.

"As seniors, we spend a lot of time by ourselves. We're not going to the shopping malls anymore," she said. Instead, they are in search of more meaningful ways to spend their free time.

At Veronica Bit's first meeting, the group studied the Bible, moral issues and dogmas. The seniors had Irizar's priestly guidance, which she appreciated.

LOTS OF QUESTIONS

"All of us had questions, and just the way Father Miguel answered our questions, I knew I wanted to be here because I knew I was going to learn. That has continued with Father Kris," said Bit.

Attending the meetings has helped fortify many of the doctrines she already believes in, but perhaps had doubts about some since she does not hear those views in mainstream society.

"For me to come here and have my beliefs reinforced is essential. It strengthens my faith in that way," said Bit.

Those involved with the group are still looking at ways to improve and further enhance the meetings.

RELUCTANCE

For example, Schmidt said some seniors might be reluctant to ask questions publicly during the meeting. Therefore, he said he would allow them to write their questions on slips of paper, and put them in a box. At the end of each session he could spend a few minutes answering their questions.

Another suggestion was to have portable mics throughout the room because many times questions had to be repeated.

Yet another recommendation was to have the meetings videotaped, so if someone were to miss a meeting, he or she could still view it afterwards.

The next get-together is set for Nov. 26.