Avila Institute of Gerontology – Spirituality for Elders
In 1929 Venerable Mary Angeline Teresa founded the Carmelite Sisters for the Aged and Infirm dedicated to the service and care of the aged and infirm. Diverse in age, background, training and united in the belief that life is precious from the moment of conception to its natural end, the Sisters continue to follow the example and vision of their foundress in ministering to Christ in the person of the elderly. Nearly twenty years ago, the Sisters recognized that Spiritual Care for Elders called for special skills. Thus they developed the Avila Institute of Gerontology, the educational arm of the order. The Institute offers a number of courses which provide extensive and ongoing education regarding elder spirituality and pastoral care.
The course entitled “Spirituality for Elders” was the certification program in which I had the privilege to work. Along with seven other members of the class who hail from Pittsburgh, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Connecticut, the course began in January and comes to completion with graduation on June 8, 2019. It encompassed classes during four weekends in the Motherhouse of the Carmelite Sisters in Germantown, NY, along with a clinical practicum week in St. Patrick’s Home in the Bronx which was founded in 1931 as the first home that the Sisters owned and operated. As we worked through the entire program and the clinical week, some of the topics that were covered included all aspects of Pastoral Care, dynamics of spiritual care, ministering across religious faiths, care partnering, and the dynamics of grief, loss and separation. Issues involving palliative care, dementia care, and hospice care were also studied. In addition to the expertise of S.Peter Lillian O’Carm, Director of the Institute, we were enriched through the presentations and knowledge of experts in each field of study.
As in all aspects of our lives, we know that for Elders the body is not the measure of healing. Peace is the measure of healing; compassion is the foundation. It is essential for us to accompany our Sisters and Family members as they journey through life and to remain with them as they look toward the completion of their earthly lives.
Elders have a richness of life to share … it is our duty of care to be present with them and to accompany them as they navigate through their transitions in life.
Indeed, our ministry of accompaniment is needed now more than ever before in our turbulent times.
Sister Peggy Conway,CSJ