For Fr Mendanha, elderly and infirm religious are spiritual grandparents

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On the feast day of Saints Joachim and Anne, the grandparents of Jesus, the superior of the Redemptorist Vice Province of Majella in India offers his thoughts. For him, “Every elderly and infirm confrere is the hidden jewel” who must “be guarded with care”.

(Mumbai) – Today is the liturgical feast day of Saints Joachim and Anne, the grandparents of Jesus. To get the faithful to focus on this day, Pope Francis instituted World Day for Grandparents, which falls on the nearest Sunday.

During last Sunday’s Angelus recited with journalists on the plane taking him to Canada on his current apostolic journey, he urged young religious and novices develop a relationship with the “grandparents” of consecrated life rather than forget them.

In Mumbai, Fr Ivel Mendanha, superior of the Redemptorist Vice Province of Majella in India, offered his thoughts on the closeness to elderly religious, which we publish below:

Caring for elderly and infirm confreres is an integral part of the apostolic life of a Redemptorist missionary. No matter what work he does, whether in training, administration, or active preaching, whether he is involved in different aspects of the mission or is confined to his room and bed due to an infirmity and age, he will always be a Redemptorist missionary.

In the last two years, four confreres have gone to God in old age. Each of them was assisted during the period of illness by specially trained nurses who lived and assisted the community day and night, so that the confreres could participate in the daily life of the missionary community even if they were elderly and sick.

The best arrangements were made so that they had all the necessary medical and nursing assistance; above all, confreres were always with them for prayer, the celebration of the Eucharist, personal chats, and community recreation.

“I am eternally grateful to you, my dearest Father, for all that you do for me,” Fr Antonio Rodrigues told me before he died at the age of 96 a couple of years ago.

Currently the oldest Redemptorist in India is Fr Frankie Menezes, 81, a well-known preacher at missions and retreats and a great communicator. At present he suffers from Alzheimer’s and is in institutional care at a nursing home run by the Sisters of St Joseph of Saint Marc in Palghar, a district in Maharashtra, a three-hour drive from the city of Mumbai.

I visit him regularly, at least twice a month, and spend a day with him. While he does not always remember my name, he is delighted to see me and laughs and smiles, and gets emotional when I recount notable aspects of his past life.

The Redemptorists of our community take turns to visit him each month and spend a day with him. I have taken all our younger Fathers to visit him and receive his blessing, including our young seminarians.

A day with him arouses mixed feelings for me: Sadness to see an extraordinary confrere in this state, but also joy to see him smiling and happy, and so well looked after in terms of geriatric care by the Sisters and staff at the home.

Caring for the elderly and infirm confreres, making sure that they are happy and at peace, their needs met and that they have a sense of belonging to the Province, have been and will be a major priority of the Vita Apostolica of our Province.

It is a way to express our gratitude to our senior and infirm confreres, for all that they have contributed to the life of the Province through their prayers, the offering of their sufferings for the intentions of the Province, not to mention, the words of wisdom born of the experience they offer to everyone, especially myself who visit them often.

Every elderly and infirm confrere is the hidden jewel of the Province, hidden because they are no longer in active ministry, but treasures because they are each a gift.

by P. Ivel Mendanha CSsR, Superior of the Vice Province of Majella of the Redemptorist Missionaries in India

(www.asianews.itNirmala Carvalho contributed to this article)

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