Over the years, whenever Bob McMahon and I would go out to the home of an elderly person for a furniture donation, many times we would find some really dirty conditions. I often would ponder this problem and came to understand that the elderly, if left on their own, do not see dust and if they do, they may not be able to do anything about it because of a variety of disabilities. I often thought it would be a good thing if we could provide some cleaning help. As in all things ministry, the question is how?
Last fall, I received a phone call from Sr. Anna Vergani, of the Xaverian Missionary Sisters. She was looking for a place to volunteer and heard from others that we would be a good place to do her volunteer work. We set up a meeting for her to come and see the operation and talk about potential ways she could help us out. She decided she could give us four four-hour days a week and we could assign her a variety of tasks that needed to be done.
After a few months of helping us clean up Christmas and sort clothing in the warehouse, I decided that maybe Anna would be interested in working with the elderly. She had demonstrated her energy and willingness to do any task asked of her, as well as a warm welcoming smile for everyone she came into contact with.
After sitting down with Anna and explaining the problem and my ideas as to how we could help, I made the proposal; Would she like to become the program manager for the elderly program? She immediately said, “Yes, but I will need to get permission from my superior.” “OK,” I said, “Keep me posted.” After a week or so, Anna told me that her immediate superior was OK with the idea, but she needed to check with her superior in Rome “In Rome!” I thought to myself, “good grief.” “OK,” I replied to Anna, “Keep me posted.” Another few weeks went by before Anna came to me and said with a huge smile on her face, “The mother superior in Rome needs to take this question to the advisory council.” “advisory council,” I said to Anna, “How long before they get us an answer?” Anna gave me a big smile and shrugged, “Maybe in a day or two or a week or two.” I just laughed, this has gone way beyond what I had ever imagined. It was almost a month later that Anna told me our request for her to spend the three years in this ministry was approved by the order. I was thrilled hearing this news. It meant we could start putting a model program together.
The model that I had in mind involved developing collaboration between parish youth ministries to provide the workers, Worcester Elder Affairs to provide the elderly in need of help with cleaning, and the Urban Missionaries to act as the administrators and trainers.
Eventually, we had a meeting of two parish youth ministers, two representatives of the Office of Elder Affairs in Worcester, Anna, Kathy and myself. The ensuing discussion was very informative and a number of very practical ideas were discussed. It was agreed that we would have one or two trials before the end of June. Elder affairs had two elderly persons in mind and would start the discussion with them to see if they would be interested in participating in the trails. Anna and I would start working on finding two youth groups to participate.
Anna and I didn’t have to wait very long to identify the groups. One of the youth ministers went back to her parish and discussed the concept with the pastor, and he was willing to investigate it further and I happened to mention it to my pastor and he jumped on board because he had some first-hand experience with this problem. So now we are currently working out the logistics such as how many people would be needed, what cleaning supplies would be needed, and a date.
I hope to be able to give you an update on how this program is working. This program will serve a need that the Urban Missionaries, and many of us in our personal lives have seen time and time again. Please keep it in your prayers.