The Future of Older Adult Ministry:
Shaping the Vision & Mission

We are at the dawn of a demographic revolution. During the decades of 2011 - 2030 the "baby boomer" generation will become the "senior boomer" generation and will stretch the resources needed for this generation to age with dignity and grace. The demand to meet physical needs such as health care, safe and affordable housing, transportation and nutrition, may stretch existing resources and services to the breaking point. This generation shaped a society that now values independence, individualism, education, mobility, and a diversity of psychological, technological and social relationships and experiences. Traditional spiritual, religious, and social values were subject to question, and in some cases adapted to a new way of life, or simply rejected.

The Catholic Church of Southern Illinois has a history that embodies compassionate care for our elders, e.g. Catholic hospitals, clergy, religious, and sacramental ministers.

The Catholic Urban Program and Daystar Program have ministered to many needs of elders, and (since July, 1974) the Ministry to Sick & Aged has been a sacramental, pastoral, and educational resource for elders. The Respect Life Office of the Diocese is an advocate for end-of-life and justice issues for elders.

Elder adult ministry in our Diocese has been a piecemeal venture, responding to needs of elders in various areas of the Diocese as needed. The question remains: What is the vision of elder ministry for the Catholic Church in Southern Illinois? What is our Mission?

These complex questions can't be answered in a short article. Nor can the vision and mission be shaped in some "back room" by individuals who think they know what the holistic needs of elders are/will be at the beginning of the 21st century. To shape a vision for and with elders in the Catholic Diocese of Belleville, a collaborative effort will be needed. The "players" in shaping the vision and the mission must be the stake holders: elders of diverse backgrounds, service providers, church, local parish, and community leadership. Elders need to be asked the questions: What physical, psycho-social, spiritual and religious needs do you believe you need to be met for you to maintain a high quality of life in your later years? What are the values that give meaning to your life? Leadership and service providers need to ask the question: What resources do we have to meet these needs? Are there ways we can collaboratively respond to needs beyond our individual capabilities to meet them?

Historically, both church and society have been in a reaction mode. Their approach has been to react to crisis and need by developing and implementing services. People of reason, compassion, knowledge, and courage, ought to be able to collaboratively shape a vision and mission of elder ministry in advance of a crisis.

The central focus of shaping that vision and mission for elder ministry is spiritual wellness - holistic care.

The time for "warehousing" our elders will end if we see each person as having an inherent dignity and worth; if we accept each person as having physical, psycho-social, and spiritual needs; and most importantly if we are willing to "roll up our sleeves and go to work" for the common good of our society - the People of God.

It has been said: "You can tell the strength of a society by how it treats its children." I would add And by how it respects its elders!

In the Catholic Diocese of Belleville, elder ministry has taken on a vision and mission that was shaped primarily in the early to mid 1970s.

Listed below are diocesan services with connections to websites that give more information about them.* These ministries have evolved over the last third of a century in response to actual and perceived needs. The challenge at the beginning of the demographic revolution of the 21st century is to understand the life situation of a new generation of older adults and be prepared to support the holistic wellness needs of their life journey through its culmination.

* Parishes in the Diocese of Belleville also respond in a variety of ways to the needs of their elders, e.g.: bereavement ministry, home / hospital / long term care visitation, sacraments of Eucharist, Anointing of the Sick / Reconciliation, food pantry, rental assistance, information & referral Reconciliation, food pantry, rental assistance, information & referral service, etc.


Hincke-Sense Residence

National Council on Aging, Inc.

National Grandparents Day

Shepherd's Centers of America

Spiritual Eldering Institute

"Aging Successfully" Dept. of Geriatrics at St. Louis University:

Association of Lifelong Adult Ministry. Dr. Richard Johnson

(To recommend additions to this list, e-mail:
We will be happy to include helpful websites to this listing).

Copyright 2012 Catholic Ministry To Sick And Aged