Last Wednesday, Catholic Charities hosted its annual Senior Ministry Conference for parishioners serving seniors in the diocese. It was a beneficial time for leaders from the diocese and other organizations to share new ideas in senior ministry.

Speakers from the Diocese of Arlington, local non-profits and Fairfax County Crime Prevention discussed a wide range of topics from bereavement groups to repairing homes for seniors to avoiding phone scams.

Mary Guyant, a Eucharistic minister to the homebound and founder of “Young at Heart” at St. John the Evangelist in Warrenton, appreciated the opportunity to learn new ideas in senior ministry from her peers.

“We always like to hear new and better ways we can do things,” Guyant said. “The conference offered so many ideas and suggestions, and we felt very blessed that we were able to be a part of it.”

More than half of our diocesan parishes were represented with 96 attendees from 43 parishes.

When it comes to ministering to seniors, we know that each parish has similar challenges, yet unique responses. With such a wide variety of attendees and speakers, we were able to share ideas and discuss best practices to ultimately increase the quality of care we provide seniors in our diocese.

Guyant says she’s already thinking of how some of these ideas can be implemented at St. John’s.

She would like to start an outreach ministry for those who are shut-in. She’s passionate about the idea because of personal experiences caring for her aging parents, but she says the conference gave her a better sense of how to get the idea off the ground.

“My greatest joy has always been where I can help other people, and if they don’t know where it came from, well, then that’s even better,” she laughed.

Additionally, Guyant wants to bring a few speakers from the conference, including Officer Allie Eggers from the Fairfax County Police Department, to speak at St. John the Evangelist.

Though Eggers, a 22-year veteran of the police force, spoke on crime prevention for seniors, her talk was beneficial for all. A few of her suggestions included:

  • When going to minister to someone: go in pairs, tell someone where you are going and when you should be home, and trust your intuition
  • When checking on seniors or a friend in need: ask leading questions so you can get them to open up about an issue you might have already identified
  • Communicate with your neighbors about suspicious activity; one recommendation was through Nextdoor, a social network connecting neighborhoods 
  • Call your local police department to inquire about a free crime prevention screening of your home
  • To avoid phone scams: if someone is asking for personal information over the phone, ask for their name and number so you can call them back; in the meantime, verify their information!
  • And finally, never believe anyone claiming to call from the IRS, if you haven’t first received communication by mail.

 “Basically, you guys can be an extension of us,” Eggers said, charging everyone in the audience to care for their neighbors and community.

And here at Catholic Charities, we strive to do exactly that: whether it’s sharing new ideas in senior ministry or sharing protection when it’s needed most, we are committed to caring for all of our neighbors in need.

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For more information on the services that Catholic Charities offer seniors, or those serving seniors, please contact Gracie Ortiz at 703-751-4083 or GOrtiz@ccda.net. Because of generous support, most all of services for seniors, those caring for seniors and conferences like these, are free of charge. Please visit our website to make a financial gift or to sign up as a volunteer.

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