Retirement is the Golden Era of Life

Apr 17, 2024

Following a long period in recovery after hip surgery, I finally succumbed to medical advice to formally retire to the Columban Nursing Home in Dalgan, writes Columban Missionary Fr Michael O’Loughlin.

Prior to that I had been enjoying helping out in my local parish and enjoying a game of golf. This all came to a closure after sixty years of mission in South Korea and in administration.

The initial period in the Nursing Home was rather challenging and didn’t come easy to me as I had not envisaged the curtain coming down on active ministry. I was now living a more restricted lifestyle with some twenty elderly fellow priests. I found myself in a more unusual pace of life.

Reading became more than an occupational therapy. It was a time to reflect more deeply on the startling changes that were happening in the world around us. I had not fully realised the impact the change had on the lives of everybody. Gradually my reading brought me to a more realistic understanding that the church and state are dealing with this in a very complex world.

The Nursing home is located in a very colourful setting and surrounded by trees and foliage of many varieties all very symbolic of nature’s way of announcing its unfolding patterns that calls on us to see the hand of God and more so our dependability on the fruits of the earth for food, clean air and health.

Environmentalists are advising all of us to the seriousness of this matter and our individual and connective responsibility to deal with it. It reminds me of the writings of an ancient Buddhist Monk: ‘as winter brings death to nature’s span, so does spring awaken life again’.

The comfort of living in an established Nursing Home doesn’t erode the issues of everyday living. Elderly people of all cultures and generations are difficult for them most of whom have witnessed the aftermath of world wars, plagues and disasters.

Columbans are mindful of the younger generation of Columbans who have to cope with vastly changing cultures. In other parts of the world, Asia and Africa especially, the eldest son is regarded as being the support person for ageing parents.

Retirement years by their very nature evoke a journey down memory lane offering those in a certain age bracket the opportunity to think about and cherish passing events of former years. Missionaries and people in similar conditions will review their past with a certain amount of pride.

Often times the missionary task will involve building church communities rather than building cathedrals and schools. I recall being invited to a very rural Christian community where I was requested to build a chapel. An older man, a non-Christian, stood up and said we need communities not buildings.

The retirement years systematically unfold the culmination of many years on the journey of life. The days, the years living in a retirement home will always foster relationships with fellow members and the recall of events that are sacred. Each year the Columbans here in Dalgan celebrate Cemetery Sunday where all of us, including family members, are invited to attend and pray for and remember our deceased members and relatives.

Retirement is the golden era of life. lt prepares us mortals to share in the fullness of life that is promised by God.

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