The United Nations designated 1 October as the International Day of Older Persons. The Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur celebrated this significant day last Sunday, 30 September 2018 at St Joseph’s Church, Sentul, during the 6.00 pm Mass. It was the first for the Archdiocese as well as our Parish, as host.
About 700 of the elderly faithful, over the age of 60, from Kuantan, Seremban and other parts of the Klang Valley attended the Mass, which was celebrated by His Grace Archbishop Julian Leow and con-celebrated by Cardinal Soter Fernandez as well as Archbishop Emeritus Murphy Pakiam.
The theme for this year’s International Day of Older Persons is “Celebrating Older Human Rights Champions”. The elderly population is growing globally, and people are aware of the serious problems affecting their health and the need for the protection of their rights. They are human too and they need the same dignity and respect as people of all other age categories. Archbishop Julian Leow highlighted that the elderly are experienced and wise, and all other age groups have many things to learn from them. Their ages represent the “wealth of life experiences” and that “wisdom really does comes with age.” Their knowledge and experience are of great contribution to society.
Many people worry as they grow older. They worry that their children will not care for them and that they may end up alone and unwanted. It is the hope and wish of the elderly, to stay in their own homes till the very end, and receive the care and support of their families. As they age, they may feel that they are losing value as a significant member of society. Therefore, it is the responsibility of every individual in the family to care for their aging parents and grandparents, and help to make them feel wanted and included.
In today’s culture, nursing and old folk homes are becoming more acceptable. Due to our work commitments and other family issues, we may sometimes opt to place our elderly in proper nursing facilities or care homes. Generally, as Christians, we always try our level best to give due respect towards the elderly. The Bible tells us to respect elders and treat them as how we our-selves would like to be treated (Lev 19: 32-34) and our obligation is to honour our parents, including the elders, (4th Commandment – Ex 20:21).
How can we minister to the elderly? The number of elderly people in our parishes are growing. The Church provides a wonderful way to engage with them, even when they find it difficult to come for Mass or other services. We are glad that our Extra-Ordinary Ministers of Holy Communion make the effort to carry out visits to the home-bound by bringing Holy Communion. Some of our priests visit the home-bound at least twice a year, especially during the seasons of Lent and Advent.
During this month of the Rosary, we specifically pray for the elderly, for their good health, happiness and long dignified lives. As we offer a decade or two of the Rosary for the elderly, let us also pray to be a listening friend to them. They have many stories to share with us. We should endeavor to offer hope, support and encouragement to our elderly. Many of the elderly may be unable to attend Mass in church due to transportation issues. If you know of any such person, do lend them a helping hand and bring them to Church with you. If that is not possible, perhaps try singing and praying together at home, and read the Bible to them, from time to time.
“Do not cast me away when I am old; do not forsake me when my strength is gone,” (Ps 71:9).
Rev. Fr. George Packiasamy