Pastoral CARING

By Lorrie & Don Gramer, NACFLM Region VII

PROVIDES CARE to couples and families in times of difficulty and loss.

 Pastoral Caring Assessment

“By the time a married couple in trouble comes to see me, the whole house is on fire…I wish we could get them assistance when it’s only a pan fire on the stove.”  This acknowledgement by a compassionate pastor highlights both the need for a better way to help couples in crisis and an opportunity for a better plan for pastoral care for Marriage in the Parish.

We’re reminded here of the words from the Pastoral Letter “Follow the Way of Love” by the US Bishops, as they encouraged married couples to “renew their commitment regularly, seek enrichment often, and ask for pastoral or professional help when needed.”

Yes, we do hope couples renew and enrich their marriages regularly and often and why it is important that a MarriageBuilding Parish provides plenty of opportunities to do just that.  Learning skills, gaining new insights, making a couples retreat, all these and others serve couples well in the ongoing work that it takes to make marriages healthy, holy and fulfilling.

But what can a couple do when the tough times get too difficult?  When one or even both lose their job?  When sickness takes over their life?  When they are having difficulty communicating?  When infertility or a difficult prenatal diagnosis comes there way?  When pornography or infidelity is a problem?  When a spouse dies?  When…?  When….?  When…?  What kind of pastoral or professional help is available to the couples in your parish who are in need?

What we are proposing is something we began calling Marriage Care a few years ago.  Marriage Care is what we have come to identify and describe as the parish ministry for couples in crisis, couples experiencing difficulties, couples in need of prayer and support, couples in need of direction toward resources and referrals, couples in need of community, all within a safe, trusting environment.

To us, it’s having the parish become the first responders, Marriage 911, if you will.  And what would this look like?  A married couple or spouse in need calls the parish office and request Marriage Care.  Within 24 hours, he or she has received a return call from the Marriage Care Minister, either the parish priest or a capable staff person or competent married person/couple, who chats with them briefly on the phone, answers some initial questions and invites them to meet.  Making that initial call to the parish is often quite difficult for a couple/individual in need, so our response must be quick and compassionate.  Explain that we aren’t marriage counselors, but we are trained and prepared to assist them in this time of difficulty.  And, we want to offer the spiritual support of their faith community.

What will that session or sessions look like?  First, let’s talk a little, to make them comfortable and to get to know each other a bit.  Then ask if you can pray with them.  Ask the Lord into this situation through His guidance and grace of their Sacrament, as together you map out a plan of recovery or assistance with this couple.  Be bold in your prayer.  Pray in a heartfelt, open way calling on God and the intercession of any of His Saints to enter into this situation and bring hope, help and healing.  Encourage them to take their situation to pray each day, too.  You might even have a prayer formula or suggested prayers that they can personalize and pray together in the coming weeks.  We are working on a prayer book of novenas for married couples in difficult situations that can be used based on the situation.  It will be called “Take it to Prayer” and we believe will assist couples to pray through the difficult times.  It’s important to remember, many couples have never prayed together, especially in their own words.  Let’s help them get started, as we know it is through prayer that many of life’s most difficult situations and decisions can be faced and where God’s grace can be received.

Next, help them assess the situation…what’s happening, what are the problems they are facing.  Assist them with this.  One simple way might be to draw a pile of boulders and ask each of them on their own sheet to name them.  The Couple Checkup through Prepare/Enrich is another tool that can be quite helpful.  It can be taken and the results received right away.  Maybe all you need to do is ask the right questions.  It is important here that the Marriage Care Minister has very good listening, empathy and understanding skills, and uses them.  Some of these skills could be taught and used in the session like Power Listening Lite from World Class Marriage.  You simply ask one of them to talk and the rest of us listen for two minutes without saying anything, just positive nonverbal that encourages them to talk.  You can then ask the other spouse to share what they heard, and confirm if they are correct.  If not, the speaker shares again.  If the conversation continues, Power Listening can be used.

Another skill comes from PAIRS.  It’s called Emptying your Emotional Jug.  Questions are asked of one of them.  Start with “What makes you upset or angry?”  No one comments.  Then ask “What makes you sad?”  Again, no one comments.  You might need to ask the question several times before they get everything out.  The next question is “What are you worried or afraid about?”  Continue to ask until they have no more to say.  Thank them each time for sharing.  Finally, the last question is “What makes you glad?”  This can take a person through a very helpful process that ends in their being glad about everything from being there to solve their situation, to a renewed sense that their marriage is important, etc.  It’s important that they each are given this opportunity to empty their emotional jug while the other listens.

World Class Marriage, PAIRS, ARC, Mastering the Mysteries of (Sacramental) Love, PREP, and others are all comprehensive relationship skills programs.  While you won’t be able to take them through an entire class, there needs to be a referral source for relationship skills.  Consider taking the training to better use the skills with them, and consider offering marriage education classes at regular intervals in the parish or cluster of parishes.  As one marriage leader we recently heard said, we have to stop guessing our way through marriage.  We must become learners.  Being able to express yourself, being a good listener, being empathetic with understanding, are all learned skills.  These can all be helpful no matter what the crisis or difficulty is.  The next step is to let them know what is available to help them.  Make referrals.  It’s important that the Marriage Care Minister has knowledge of the resources, programs, counselors, and other sources of help to assist the couple in making a plan of recovery, of hope, of support.  Do your homework.  Learn about all the efforts that are available through your parish, your diocese, your community, through the web, anything that can be of help.  You might need to tell the couple you will have these ready the next time you meet, especially if you need to do more homework.

If you don’t have a list of Catholic Counselors, or at least Counselors who support Catholic teachings of permanence, openness to life and fidelity, get one put together.  Recruit through your parish bulletin, you may have some excellent counselors right in your parish and don’t know them.  Then take them to lunch and talk.  Interview them.  This will help you know their strengths and you can refer accordingly.  We have included here a copy of the questions one of the counselors in our diocese put together for this process.

Learn about other efforts to help troubled couples like Third Option and Retrouvaille.  Our local Marriage Encounter leaders have told us that at least 40% of the couples attending ME should be on a Retrouvaille instead.  Where can this discernment happen?  With the Marriage Care Minister.

Third Option is.  It can be set up in a parish or maybe better, a cluster of parishes.

Retrouvaille is

We would like to be clear here.  Marriage Care is NOT Marriage Counseling.  It’s marriage support and referral.

Be creative in how you Resource each individual/couple.

If communication is the problem, refer to a skills class in the area or to Marriage Encounter.  Know the dates and registration information.  Even help them sign up.

If you have a couple who is experiencing infertility, give them knowledge of the Church’s teaching on reproductive technology (available from USCCB Publications) and information on Natural Family Planning as a method to achieve pregnancy.  And, refer them to a support group within our faith community…and if there’s not one, help to create one.  One in six couples today are experiencing infertility.

When a couple receives a difficult prenatal diagnosis, refer them to someone in your faith community for support and connect them to Mary Kellet and Prenatal Partners for Life.  Mary’s son was diagnosed prenatally with a severe Chromosome deformity and advised to terminate the pregnancy.  Mary carried Peter to term and he became a precious member of their family. offers the support a couple may need to do the right thing.

Elizabeth Ministries is also a wonderful resource for any need a couple may have during the childbearing years.  They are also an excellent resource for Pornography recovery.  RECLAIM Sexual Health is their newest effort.  It’s online recovery of sexual addictions for Catholics.  When a spouse has major health issues, the other may need our care and concern.  Find a parish family willing to “adopt” them and offer to help out around the house with tasks or chores that may need to be done.  This would be true after the death of a spouse as well.  We asked a young widow what she needed now from the Church.  Her answer?  Some help with some of the things her husband would have done.  I know there are widowers who could use a homemade meal or a plate of cookies now and again, too.

A MarriageBuilding Parish does all these things, and hopefully more, to address the needs of couples and families in crisis.  We as Catholics believe in marriage as faithful, fruitful and forever….through richer and poorer, in sickness and in health.  If a couple doesn’t find the resources to assist them through the difficult times in their lives, when the going gets too tough, when sickness can take over their lives, when they lose a job or have other financial difficulties, when communication breaks down, we have to see ourselves as part of the problem.  Shouldn’t we rather be part of the solution?

The Gray Wave

By Mary Jo Pedersen, M.A.

Mary Jo spent 30 years in ministry to families and faith formation in the Archdiocese of Omaha. She and her husband, David, have three children and five grandsons.  Pete has no family in town and lives in a nursing home. Howard and Ann are retired and living in Arizona. Paul and his wife Rose moved to assisted living because of limitations from Paul’s recent stroke. Joan volunteers in the school library and takes her neighbor who is homebound to Mass every Sunday. Rich, a widower of six years, has just happily remarried at age 68. And Mary Beth at age 73 helps her single parent daughter raise two little boys. John Allen in his book, The Future Church, refers to this diverse population as the “gray wave.” Major questions for the Church continue to be:

• What do these fellow travelers have to offer us?

• How will we support their spiritual journey? There is nothing uniform about the graying of America. Those over 65 are either rich and poor, healthy and physically compromised, married, divorced, single, and widowed. Yet in looking at their spiritual journey some common patterns emerge. The spiritual journey of later life is one of paradox. New freedoms and increasing limitations are twin paths that join toward the end of life. Many older adults experience a new freedom for leisure, service, and learning. Children are married or moved away, parents for whom they were caring are gone, and many have retired from the rigors of full time work. Yet retired friends of mine find themselves busier than ever, often commenting that they “never knew how I had time to work!”

Married couples experience opportunities for more time together and a new sense of us – a welcome spiritual dividend after a long history together and an important measure of growth in a sacramental marriage. With the freedom that comes from having launched their own children, couples find new ways of nurturing and giving life in the community.

Joan volunteers in her local school library. Pat and Judy babysit sick grandchildren when childcare won’t take them. Older adults often sponsor RCIA candidates and provide funeral meals. For some, their time and energy goes into the care of an ill spouse or sibling.

Though there are major adjustments in the later part of marriage there are also opportunities for earning and growth, for using energy and talent for things they value or enjoy, but could not fit into their schedules earlier. With more discretionary time, older adults want to continue to be active and to learn, whether it is ballroom dancing or computer classes at the local community college. In a recent study done by U.S. Catholic magazine polled their subscribers over 65 asking how many were interested in more information about their faith, 68% said that they wanted more ongoing faith development opportunities in their parishes.

In tandem with this new freedom for elders are experiences of diminishment. In varying degrees some physical, relational, and economic losses are inevitable in the later years. Dick and Ann no longer take fishing trips with friends since Dick’s back trouble has limited his mobility. The O’Brien’s have lost their pension and are moving to a smaller home, thus giving up their dream of traveling in retirement. Many couples are working longer to maintain health care benefits.

Not all losses are physical or monetary. The later years can be colored by grief at the loss of loved ones and caring for a special needs child or the mental illness of a family member. Pat and Ann struggle with reconciling the divorces of two of their four children and the resulting limited contact with grandchildren.

Aging often presents the spiritual challenges of grief, physical limitations, loneliness, regretted lost opportunities, and financial stress. The spiritual battle of aging is between overcoming loss and appreciating the treasures and possibilities at the end of life. Having spent their lives preparing for the future, elders now have the gift of enjoying the present moment.

Aging brings perspective and time for reflection on life’s blessings. This yields gratitude for simple things, a desire to keep growing, and the joy of watching the next generation mature. If they allow it, older adults enjoy being the receiver of kindnesses instead of always the giver.

In the mix of darkness and light, faith can be deepened or lost. At this point on their life journey older adults are asking hard questions. Who am I now that I am no longer working, or that I am alone? What comes after this life? What is the meaning of suffering? How can I reconcile what I had hoped to accomplish in life, but did not? These are profoundly spiritual questions that go to the heart of our Catholic faith, a faith that provides meaning to grief and loss, suffering, reconciliation, death, and eternity.

Research from The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA), in its recent studies of Catholic practice, shows that older adults are more inclined to attend and practice their faith than younger  generation. The spiritual exercises of aging take reflection; and reflection takes time. The later years can provide both.

Elders look to the Church for direction and companionship on this last leg of their spiritual journey.  Being true to the original vision of family ministry established in the early 1980s, we continue to listen to  those who are experiencing this stage of life and listen to the research about future social, financial, and health trends that affect our aging families. We recognize the value of like to like ministry among elders as we have with the engaged, married, divorced, etc.

In addition, the U.S. Bishops and some dioceses have created plans that will guide pastoral ministers in assisting older Catholics in realizing the full potential of their later years. Family ministers and parishes have begun the effort by gathering widows and widowers for bereavement programs and providing support for caregivers. Many parishes offer faith formation and personal enrichment opportunities for older adults, including them in intergenerational programs and also allowing them space for gathering around their own later life issues. Parishes have long provided opportunities for elders to use their experience and gifts as sponsors for RCIA, marriage preparation or other parish or community programs.

Local retreat centers are good collaborators in offering classes and spiritual enrichment for the later years. The experience of aging, whether one grows older alone or with a married partner, is one of change. This is not something new. Change is essential to life and to spiritual growth. The spirituality of aging is about the transformative nature of change. That is true of every life transition. For followers of Christ, the dying and rising is embedded into everyday lived experience of loss and of new life.

Aging places before us great challenges and opportunities for deepening faith in the paschal mystery Jesus continued from page 1 Christ. When faced with the normal developmental losses of later life; the memory failing a bit, the body weakening, the loss of loved ones, are elders able to see the new  possibilities, the “freedoms from” that result from loss?

It isn’t change itself that is the spiritual stumbling block, it is the attitude toward such later-life changes that can bring happiness and peace. Acceptance leads to transformation, resistance to depression.

As the church welcomes this gray wave into its pews I find Joan Chittister’s attitude an inspiring vision to guide ministry to aging families into the future. In her book, The Gift of Years, she says: “As long as we breathe we have responsibility for the co-creation of the world. We have potential to become wiser, spiritually stronger, more than ever a blessing to our families and to the human family.”

Resources on Aging

Loving for a Lifetime: The Six Secrets of a Happy, Healthy and Holy Mature Marriage. Is a six session video series by Dr. Richard P. Johnson which can be used as marriage preparation and/or marriage enrichment for maturing adults. Dr. Johnson also has a similarly titled book: Loving for a Lifetime: 6 Essentials for a Happy, Healthy, and Holy Marriage (Liguori. 2004). These resources are available at

Also by Richard Johnson is his Parish Ministry for Maturing Adults: Principles, Plans, and Bold Proposals (Twenty Third Publications, 2007).This volume provides a vision, model, and strategies to help parishes in developing a ministry for those in their maturing years. They’re Your Parents Too!: How Siblings Can Survive Their Parent’s Aging Without Driving Each Other Crazy (Random House, 2010) provides practical advice on a wide range of topic for families dealing with their parents in their later years. Unresolved childhood issues, negotiating care giving concerns, and ensuring the best care of parents with the least conflict are just samples of topics covered. There are numerous examples of books like this in our public libraries.

Prayer for the Jubilee Day for Older Persons

Lord Jesus, you promised, “Behold I make all things new.” Renew us in mind and body. Help us to use our years of experience by sharing our wisdom with enthusiasm and imagination. Expand our concerns that we might be ever more creative in helping others, especially younger people, who may be looking for guidance and support. We thank you, Lord Jesus, for the beauty of years, the freshness of dreams, and the encouragement of happy memories. Let our lives, at this time, be second springs, bursting with the joyous colors of hope, the warm breezes of love, and the delicate showers of grace which nurture our continuous growth.

Bless all who love us and all whom we love. Unite us ever more closely as members of your body on earth until the day we reign with you forever.

We pray to grow in wisdom and grace as older members of God’s beautiful creation.


Provided by Senior Adult Ministry of the Diocese of Harrisburg.  May be reproduced.

Ministering to Parishioners Over 65

Richard P. Johnson

Our Church is aging. We are in the first act of a historical drama that is destined to transform our culture and Church in ways we have yet to imagine. The number and percentage of elders occupying our parish pews increases weekly. This phenomenon will continue for at least the next 25 to 30 years. Indeed, the phenomenon is likely to remain a permanent fixture in the demographics of our faith communities.

Senior Group vs. Maturing Adult Ministry

Most parishes have senior groups. They serve seniors primarily on social, entertainment, and on recreational levels. If one were to investigate the major “work” and yearly schedule of most Church senior groups, one would most likely find dinners, card parties, trips, games of chance, prizes, more trips, an occasional speaker (usually from a local funeral home, cemetery, or hospital), and of course, more trips. Notably absent from most parish schedules would be social justice projects, spiritual reading discussion groups, any comprehensive faith formation events specific to the needs and concerns of maturing adults, or any participatory, liberating, or transformational learning.

In short, most parish senior groups see themselves as “get-together groups” that just happen to meet at the church with little effect upon, or even expectation of, true interior growth. It’s time for a change. We desperately need to go beyond senior group thinking and toward maturing adult ministry. We need to realize that the number of bingo parties, bus trips, or brownie and cake sales in the parish does not measure success for maturing adult ministry.

Maturing adult ministry is an organized curriculum of learning experiences designed to assist each maturing adult to align their own unique life experience with the teachings of their faith tradition as they meet the ongoing spiritual growth mandate in their own senior years.

Author Jane Regan identifies five presumptions of adult faith formation in her book Toward an Adult Church. Regan speaks about adult faith formation. I have modified her words and meaning into maturing adult faith formation/ ministry. I thank her for her original work.

Principles of Maturing Adult Ministry

1. Maturing adult ministry is not simply about establishing new programs in the parish, but about shaping a new vision of maturing adult ministry as a vital component in a shared learning community.

2. Maturing adult ministry curriculum is not about Church documents or formal theology (although these can serve as points for reference). Rather, maturing adult ministry curriculum comes from the lived experience of its members in a faith context.

3. True learning, learning that is genuinely transformative, involves some measure of re-shaping of self. Maturing adult ministry needs to aim at the very heart of the maturing adult; new motivation, new understanding, new confidence, and new life are all goals of maturing adult ministry.

4. Maturing adults learn best when in dialogue. If we expect to succeed in transformative learning with adults we must be personal, practical, and relevant.

5. Maturing adult ministry is marked by hospitality. Hospitality means to be welcoming in all aspects of our human experience – socially, physically, psychologically, and spiritually. As we mature our spiritual pace is supposed to quicken. With advancing maturation we are called to shift our perceptual focus more toward our interior life, the place where God resides within us. As we mature we grow closer to that transcendent understanding of living in the world, while not being of the world. This paradox is only one of many that begin to connect and bind together the patches of our life into a wonderful quilt of many colors. This masterpiece quilt keeps us warm and secure in wholeness and authenticity.

As the years, may exact a physical toll on us, our need for an advancing appreciation for the intangibles of living only increases. Intensified focus on adult faith formation has been a continuing call from many segments of the Church community for years. Yet, meager headway has been made toward this much discussed goal. Perhaps we need to better understand the inner spiritual developmental needs of maturing adults and how these needs can be additive for the entire parish mix.

1. Maturing adults can help us better understand that we are all one, that all the various age groups in the church are intertwined. Church intergenerational connections are like family systems theory. If one ingredient (cohort) in the mix doesn’t express its flavor then the others cannot express themselves fully either.

2. Maturing adults need to be lifted up as mentors to help us along the way lest they become antagonistic critics.

3. Maturing adults can help the parish learn how to pray. This arises from their advancing wisdom, a wisdom that requires that we arouse the contemplative within us and learn to rest in meditative silence so this wisdom can be gradually discovered and its power unleashed within the entire faith community.

4. Maturing adults help the parish gain much needed focus of a historical perspective. Maturing adults offer guidance, instruction, and dialogue with others on deeper spiritual levels so all members can construct the most enriching life meaning possible. Perhaps the best response to the call for change, indeed for personal transformation of elders, is in constructing a true learning community in our faith communities. Indeed, one could argue that unless the faith community is also a thriving learning community, it is destined to find distortion and dysfunction. Eventually it may even unravel. We cannot have fully functioning and truly faith-filled maturing adults without lifelong learning. Where will the leadership come from for this expanded vision of maturing adult ministry? The talent for such an endeavor resides right in the parish. The talent is waiting to be ignited by a new vision, animated by new learning, and motivated by a new commitment to excellence.

Richard P. Johnson is founder and director of The JOHNSON Institute, an independent school awarding certification in “Spiritual Gerontology” and “Faith Formation for Maturing Adults.”

Grandparents as Mentors

Gary and Kay Aitchison

We have been grandparents for 18 years, and during that time we have observed a tremendous accumulation of stresses in the families of our children and our friends’ children. As we all know, society has placed nearly super-human demands on today’s families. Many parents are struggling to succeed in the multi-arena of family, jobs, church, and community while also dealing with the effects of a diminished economy. Obviously, today’s families could use more support than most of them are getting. Yet, many have a resource, not fully utilized – their children’s grandparents. Parents, even if they have unlimited time, can’t be everything to their children. Grandparents are perfect candidates to fill the gaps in the fabric of family life. They expand a child’s horizons because they bring a different vision, a perspective, and dimension.

A grandparent’s place in the life of a grandchild is unique and never should be underestimated. By their position and lived experience, grandparents have earned the right to be recognized as the wisdom generation. They bring a host of talents to their many roles as nurturers, models, mentors, memory makers, family historians, and keepers of the family legacy. Grandparents are a strong and formidable link between a family’s past and its future. They can be the anchors that keep a family grounded. Most of all, faith filled and wise grandparents are carriers of faith, tradition, morals, and values. They can be a tremendous witness to their grandchildren. Not all grandchildren are being brought up in the faith of their grandparents and this may be challenging. Still, the subtle example of grandparents living their faith can be a powerful influence.

Grandparents teach faith by all that they do including praying for their grandchildren, telling bible stories, sharing about the lives of holy people, doing good works, creating Christian traditions in the home, teaching prayers, praying at mealtime, and by taking their grandchildren to church when their parents cannot or do not.

Grandparents have an important role in handing down the family faith traditions even though some of the seeds they sow may not bear fruit until after they are gone. In recent years, our own ministry to families has expanded to include grandparents. It is obvious that grandparents have a great deal to offer to today’s stressed out families. Most grandparents care deeply about their grandchildren and have a strong bond with them.  These grandparents, whether they live in the same community or are long-distance grandparents, want to play a significant role in the lives of their grandchildren and are searching for the best ways to do it.

This ministry to grandparents is designed to help them recognize their special vocation as guides and companions to their grandchildren. We introduce the concept with a presentation on the blessings of grand parenting. This presentation raises awareness and affirms, empowers, and guides grandparents to discern just where God is calling them to use their gifts and talents. Since many grandparents have expressed an interest in sharing with others, we have also created a six-meeting small group   study/discussion program for parish grandparent groups. This program brings grandparents together to share ideas and give support. We have discovered that grandparents are eager, and often more available than their children, to participate in parish programs.

Grandparents have been described as “wisdom with wrinkles.” Their life experience and insights make them the sages of the family. The grandparent grandchild relationship connects the younger and older stages of life and gives meaning and understanding to both. Pope Benedict XVI reminds us that, “Grandparents are a precious resource for families, the church, and society.”

Kay and Gary Aitchison are former National Leaders of the Christian Family Movement-USA, and a Diaconate Couple.  They live in Ames, Iowa and have 13 grandchildren.


Blessings of Age

Blessings of Age, is a Pastoral Message on Growing Older within the Faith Community. It is addressed to Older Persons, Caregivers, Pastors, Pastoral Staff, and Parishioners.  Following is an excerpt from the final section addressed to Pastors and Pastoral Staff. Because parishes differ in their particular needs and resources, we offer a few foundational principles for parish ministry with older persons.

1. Older people are providers, not just recipients, of pastoral care.

2. Older people themselves should help to identify their pastoral needs and decide how they are met.

3. Older people are as diverse, if not more so, than other generational groups.

4. Older people need a mix of activities that connect them with each other, as well as the larger faith community.

5. Spiritual health affects and is affected by the individual’s physical, emotional, mental, and social health. While the faith community is especially concerned about meeting spiritual needs, it cannot ignore these other realities.


Together We’re Better: Age Well-Live Well

By Ken Bomar

As the baby boom generation ages, our communities and local Churches will encounter unprecedented needs related to older persons. By 2030, the U.S. population 65 and older will double to about 71 million older adults, or one in every five Americans. Catholic teaching on the dignity of the human person calls  us to ensure that no one is left without the caring presence every person deserves. Our readiness to meet these vast needs will depend on our ability to forge collaborative partnerships between parishes and community resources, such as governmental agencies and other organizations that provide services to the elderly.

In Texas, the Diocese of Austin has partnered with the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services (DADS) to better serve older persons in the community. This partnership has helped ensure that parishes are aware of resources and that Catholic families have practical ways to get involved in serving the aging community. Because every state has a similar department on aging, as well as other related agencies, this model can be replicated throughout the country. Following is a sample.

1. Use the Age Well–Live Well model to promote key areas. These should include health and wellness (physical/mental), resource awareness, and individual and community engagement (volunteer opportunities). Age Well– Live Well is a collaborative community initiative that promotes health, wellness, volunteerism, and provides information on services for older Texans and people with disabilities. Through the Age Well–Live Well initiative, local organizations work together to provide residents with information on local, state, and federal programs.

Age Well–Live Well focuses on:

• Creating awareness of aging issues and resources offered through Age Well – Live Well partners and the aging and disability network

• Improving the physical health of older adults, people with disabilities, their families and all segments of the Diocese/Parish area

• Providing opportunities for Diocese/Parish members to volunteer with older adults and people with disabilities

• Engaging the community in collaborative partnerships that benefit all


2. Develop educational and motivational programs to involve the maximum number of people. This can include events, seminars, internal and external communication, web based information exchange, partnering with local media, and programs to meet specific needs.

3. Utilize resources that are already in place. Grants and ongoing governmental programs support a wide array of resources for the elderly, but often people are unaware of them. Church leadership can serve as referral points to inform families about these services.

4. Commit to short term initiatives leading to long-term mutual goals. Continue to communicate with partners, parishioners, and the community. As the demographics of our society and parishes change, an aging population that is healthy and adequately cared for is a large goal and one that will require considerable planning to ensure that every person is treated with dignity and respect.

Ken Bomar is marketing director for Volunteer and Community Engagement with the Texas Dept. on Aging and Disability Services.

Helping Children Deal With a Parent’s Deployment

by Joseph White

Deployment can be a difficult time, for both the adults being deployed and the families they are leaving behind. Children face a host of special issues when one or both of their parents are deployed. The deployment cycle is best thought of as three separate phases:

1. Pre-deployment

2. Deployment

3. Reunion

Each phase has unique issues that may require time to sort through, particularly for children. Behavioral and emotional changes in children may occur even after their parents arrive back home. Everyone will have changed during the separation, so being together again may require some adjustments.

The pre-deployment period can last several weeks to just a few hours. Children need to be told where their parent is going (even if only general locations are available), when the parent anticipates returning, and why their parent is leaving. Discussing the deployment can help children understand that parents are not leaving because of something the child did and that they will be coming home.

Educators and other caregivers play a special role in the lives of children during a parent’s deployment. When everything else is unsettled, school can serve as an oasis of stability for children. Due to the amount of time spent in school, teachers are often the first to notice behavioral or performance changes. Educators can serve as extra eyes and ears for the parent staying at home or the child’s guardian. Given the number of additional burdens placed upon caregivers, this backup can be extremely useful. Watch for any changes in a child’s behavior or school performance. This can be a scary time for children. Their feelings and concerns may be expressed in a number of ways. Encourage the courage of children.

The reunion phase actually begins a couple of weeks before the parent’s return as the child begins to anticipate the reunion. Children feel a mixture of excitement and fear during this time. They will be wondering what the reunion itself will be like and questioning: “How has Mommy/Daddy changed?” “Will he recognize me?,” “Will she know who I am?” This phase can actually be the most difficult for children, so support is especially crucial as the deployment nears its end.

Children are exposed to more now than they were even a few years ago. Media coverage of conflicts around the world allows for regular glimpses into situations faced by the military. This information is often inappropriate for children. The scenes they can see on television may themselves be a source of stress, as well as a trigger for new worries about the safety of their loved ones. Encourage adults to limit the television coverage children can see. Also encourage adults to read news articles prior to children to ensure they are appropriate for children. Both of these tips are for all of the adults in a child’s life, not just a child’s parent or guardian. If a child is exposed to something upsetting, talk about it. The news may have sparked or rekindled fears that need to be discussed.

Children may also need help dealing with anti-war sentiment. Sometimes  the opinions people have about war or a particular war may cause the children of those serving distress or worry. While one would hope that people, particularly adults, would exercise forethought in discussions of such weighty topics around children, sometimes upsetting things are said around or even to children. If a child is disturbed or upset, encourage him or her to talk it through. Also encourage adults to be thoughtful of children and the situations they are facing before they speak in front of them.

For more information on how parents, families, educators, and Church communities can assist children during a parent’s deployment, see the Military School can serve as Child Education Coalition website .

Dr. Joseph White is a Clinical Child Psychologist and is Board Certified in Sexual Abuse by the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress.

Stress and Family Life

By Tony Garascia The Nature of Stress and Trauma Stress is an everyday part of life. Stress comes in all shapes and sizes, from the relatively small stress of making sure our children have their homework done to the much larger issues surrounding watching a parent who is in the military deploy to a combat […]