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Aging really matters, discussion group concludes

"Aging Matters," which is the title of a book by a Methodist minister, also is a conclusion reached by senior citizens gathering to discuss the book.

A couple dozen or so Catholic seniors met earlier this month in a discussion led by a retired Catholic priest to examine the book, subtitled "Finding Your Calling for the Rest of Your Life," and what they've learned about aging. It's part of Seniors' Day, held the second Tuesday of the month at Pauline Books & Media, 9804 Watson Road in Crestwood. The discussion is led by Father John Johnson, a retired parish pastor who lives at St. Justin Martyr Parish in Sunset Hills, followed by eucharistic adoration and fellowship.

For the next eight months, the group will examine chapters of the book by R. Paul Stevens.

The participants, seated at tables arranged in a square for the first session on the topic, cited positive aspects of aging, from the wisdom and patience it brings to the opportunity for quiet reflection that brings a closeness to God.

The book makes a case for older adults to continue to mature personally, live purposefully and stay involved with others in ministry. The starting point for the group was the first chapter, on reframing retirement.

Father Johnson said his retirement has been a blessing, allowing him to focus on what he was ordained to do rather than be an administrator responsible for finances, staffing, meeting and similar work. He now focuses on daily Mass, holy hour, the sacrament of reconciliation, a weekly Scripture group and more. He also has more time for prayer.

Mary Canova of Mary Queen of Peace Parish in Webster Groves said that as she aged she realized that material things and conforming to certain standards don't matter to her anymore.

"I just want to have my faith and live a simple life, keep on learning and giving," Canova said.

Father Johnson cited the importance of having a purpose in retirement. He said grandparents have much to offer, including traditions and faith to pass on to their grandchildren. They know the importance of listening and communicating through conversation, something the younger generation often misses, he said.

In retirement, he said, "our life quiets down. That's when we hear God. You're more receptive to hearing Him."

Other points made in the discussion included:

• We never stop learning;

• Work prepares us for our life after death. Our life and work here isn't final;

• Volunteer efforts for retirees often go beyond activities in a parish;

• Retirement may mean you're as busy as before, but you get to choose what keeps you busy. God clears your calendar when you retire so you can make those choices, and if you're doing what you want to do you'll be more effective;

• It's rewarding to spend time with people who are lonely, shut-ins or nursing home residents;

• Retirement is a good time to pray for others.

Sister Mary Lea Hill, local superior of the Daughters of St. Paul, thanked Father Johnson for giving presentations for senior citizens, noting that he previously led discussions on a papal encyclical. "He knows that retirement for him means continuing to serve people," she said. 

>> Meaningfully engaged

"Aging Matters: Finding Your Calling for the Rest of Your Life"

By R. Paul Stevens

Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Paperback, 2016, 199 pages

Vocational discernment, author R. Paul Stevens says, is a lifelong process — one that takes on even more significance in later life. In his book, Stevens argues that our calling doesn't end with formal retirement; to the contrary, we do well to keep on working, if possible, until life's end.

Stevens delves into matters of spirituality and legacy in retirement, asking readers to remain meaningfully engaged for the rest of their lives. He reframes retirement as a time of productivity and points to biblical wisdom that helps redefine aging as an extraordinarily fruitful season of life. 

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