New Parish Outreach to Seniors Project
The definition of isolation is broad, and the program is designed to provide social companionship to those people identifying or being identified as lacking social and emotional support. Volunteers connect with seniors in many different capacities; those living alone, those in retirement communities, those who wish to meet at Tim Hortons, and those who want to play crib and drink tea. The situation and needs are diverse, but being met head on with a lot of passion and a lot of heart!
POTS was developed through a partnership with 6 Parishes and 2 Catholic Family Services Agencies. It is supported by Catholic Charities, ShareLife, and the Archdiocese. Locally Catholic Family Services Simcoe, St. John Vianney Parish, Guardian Angels Parish, and Holy Martyrs of Japan are working together to build bridges in the community and help change the lives of everyone involved in the project. We are taking on new partnerships with the Alzheimers Society and other agencies currently serving the Senior population, and together helping to fill gaps in our community.
People involved at every level of this project have begun to feel touched by the work and service it is providing.
Recently, we received an e-mail from the Parish Coordinator at Guardian Angels Parish that outlines how the experience of being a part of this project has impacted her. Some of the highlights of her e-mail are below.
“ I feel compelled to try to capture via this email how my involvement in this program has changed me and to thank you for your confidence in choosing me to coordinate on behalf of our wonderful volunteers across the four churches.
When we first moved to this area last year, I wondered what God had in store for me. Rick and I had just come from a difficult 2015 with the sudden passing of his dad (June) and then my mom (Dec 27). I was devastated and lonely. Even though I was privileged to have my mom for 57 years, and even more so with her desire to live with Rick and I in Barrie for the last 6 months I was still feeling extreme loss.
This is important to share because when I first heard Fr Andrew speak about the Outreach to Seniors Program coming to our parish I knew without a doubt that this was something for me. This was something that would fill the void of loss that I was feeling. My first instinct was not about the seniors, but about myself. In retrospect, this is pretty selfish, I know, but it’s that confidence in knowing that God put my life on the path to Orillia, and His timing is always perfect.
I believe I know, that if my visits with seniors stopped at just the first person, I would still be happy and fulfilled in this project. I was so honoured to visit 3 new seniors last week. Each one puts a smile on my face, gives my life purpose in their own way, and makes me feel so thankful for the happiness every single visit has given me.
I write this because each of the volunteers and the seniors and their family members that I meet has changed me for the better. This is not a sad, or depressing project. The last 3 visits were a result of me speaking from the pulpit. I believe that storytelling and conversation, fun and laughter, are key to the project. I cry more now, but they’re all happy tears!
Together we are building friendships. Old age is not defined by doctors appointments, oxygen, retirement homes, and death, but it’s been my experience that’s it’s about the legacy, losing one’s self in life stories, becoming young again, talking about courtships (which each of my seniors who have been married have told me in our first meetings every single time!), about legacies, about boasting and bragging about how families built and survived on little money, and about feeling how for that hour or two, that each person is transported back through the decades via their story as it is told and retold to me.”
– Wanda Minnings, Parish Coordinator, Guardian Angels Parish (Orillia)
The Parish Outreach Project is just beginning to take off. As we continue to build awareness, friendships, and bridges in our community I imagine we will continue to receive more and more personal accounts of the project’s impact. If you know someone who would benefit from the service this project provides, please use the contact information below to get in touch with your local Parish Coordinator.
St. John Vianney Parish (Barrie): Gisle Melo – (705) 726 8007
Guardian Angels Parish (Orillia): Wanda Minnings – (705) 326 2849
Holy Martyrs of Japan (Bradford): Nicole Fernandez – (905) 775 2065