When I began in parish ministry, I inherited an RCIA team that included one very unique member, Theresa, who was 85 years old. I was told that Theresa’s job was to bake and bring the snacks for every session—something that she was renowned for. (Her cookies were to die for!) But Theresa did more than just bring homemade cookies and pastries to our sessions. She sat in on every session and added her two cents. She had great stories to tell and opinions to share, and was so quick with the wit that she kept participants smiling throughout. When Theresa passed away, our team experienced a great void. What did I do? I went out and found another 80-something person, Georgia, to join our team. Georgia picked up where Theresa left off and quickly became the new wisdom figure for our RCIA experience.
There is so much to be said about the wisdom of our elders, and faith formation can benefit so much from tapping into that wisdom. Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has a deep commitment to the elderly of our world, and he is continuously calling on us to honor our elders and to invite them to share their wisdom with those who are younger.
At the 2018 Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, Loyola Press asked attendees to share their thoughts about Pope Francis’s message to honor the wisdom and lives of the older generation, as well as what they think is something that younger generations can learn from older generations. Here is a sampling of some of the responses:
“The hopes of a lifetime can be read in the wrinkles on the faces of older men and women. They are signs of blessing, of work, of a life that is offered, and of hope that is lived.”