On 4 December 2019, two major new resources on care in our ageing society were launched at a gathering in London, co-ordinated by Caritas Social Action Network and addressed by CSAN’s Patron, Cardinal Vincent Nichols.
The event was chaired by Debbie Thrower, the well-known former journalist and broadcaster, and founder of Anna Chaplaincy for older people. Around 65 people attended, including Bishop Terence Drainey (Chair of CSAN), Bishop John Arnold and other CSAN trustees, leaders and practitioners from religious orders and charities in the Caritas network working with older people, with representatives of Age UK, Christians on Ageing, MHA, the Muslim Council of Britain and Catholic trust funders.
‘Care in Time’ is a new report exploring how senior leaders of Catholic organisations can address the increasing concerns of charities and carers about the prospects for the care of older people in England and Wales. Religious orders, directors and diocesan representatives in the Caritas network contributed evidence to the report. The report extends social thought on care and ageing, drawing for example on the statements of Pope St John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis.
Cardinal Nichols paid particular tribute to carers and religious sisters deeply rooted in communities. He thanked “so many unsung heroes, so many religious institutions, especially religious sisters, so many volunteers, so many trustees, who give of their time to support and help grow so many different organisations, which all wish to respond, out of love, to those most in need.” The Cardinal highlighted the causes of the social care crisis affecting older people, and the needs for increased political attention and co-operation:
“We have lived in these last decades in a society that has rejoiced in increasing mobility, in increasing self-determination, and an increasing self sense of autonomy and independence. And when the capacity for those things begins to fall away, then what I think many elderly people find is that the fragmentation of a more corporate sense of society leaves them extremely isolated. And I would say, it’s that problem of isolation, which is the one that comes home to me most of all, when we think about the changing age demography of the country in which we live.
“A second item, as we have become a more technological society, a more material-based society, then the standards by which we should be offering each other care, have in that material sense, risen and risen, and make the actual offering and the provision of care in its structures, not necessarily in its heart and spirit, more and more difficult to sustain. And we’ve already heard that this is a topic of which little is being said in this election campaign.”
‘Reaching Out’ is a new resource for parishes to discern and organise local group-based social activities that older people feel right for them. It is a fruit of the three-year Embrace Project collaboration between Caritas Salford, Catholic Care (Diocese of Leeds), Father Hudson’s Care and the national team in CSAN. Over 20 new group activities were established by Catholic parishes, involving over 1,000 people of all ages within and beyond the Catholic community.
The audience welcomed addresses from Drs. Peter Kevern and Kathryn Hodges, authors of chapters in ‘Care in Time’, a moving account by Sr Monica Butler RSM on the formation of care staff in the Mercy ethos, and the perspectives of charity directors involved in Embrace.
Carol Hill, Director of Catholic Care (Diocese of Leeds) and Chair of CSAN’s Directors’ Forum, launched the toolkit on behalf of the collaborating charities, noting,
“I really do feel that it’s such a user friendly guide, and it can inspire social action in parishes across England and Wales to enhance the lives of older people living in our communities. And I think this is an excellent opportunity for the church, through its lay people to support its older congregations through social action.”
CSAN will now be represented at the first international Catholic congress on the pastoral care of the elderly in January 2020, organised by the Vatican’s Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life.
The new resources are available to download:
- For Care in Time and accompanying reports, please see CSAN’s publications page (under Older People).
- Reaching Out: Older people and Catholic parishes making memories together.
A film of the launch event is available online (these are external links):
Picture credit: © Mazur/ cbcew.org.uk, reused with permission