Growing older isnt for sissies
By Michelle Martin
When Deacon Bill Kalivoda was 54, he found himself retired from his corporate career and looking for a change in his ministry. He found it by taking a course in clinical pastoral education for mature adults, a unique program which opened up opportunities for service.
The program is a joint venture of Addolorata Villa in Wheeling and Alexian Brothers Medical Center in Elk Grove Village.
Now Kalivoda works part-time as a chaplain at Addolorata Villa, a continuing care retirement community supported by the Franciscan Sisters of Chicago. He talks to and prays with residents and their families. He enjoys it, he said, because he has time to get to know the residents and develop a sense of family.
I guess I was attracted to ministry for older adults because I felt like I was approaching that time of life, and I could relate, said Kalivoda, who spent 17 years in parish ministry.
He and 28 others have taken the course in clinical pastoral education for older adults, the only such accredited course offered in a Catholic facility in the archdiocese.
Betty Skonieczny, Addolorata Villas pastoral care director, said
the program began five years ago, growing out of a need perceived
by her and by officials at Alexian Brothers Medical Center.
Older adults experience loss at a greater rate than any other
segment of the populationloss of health, independence, spouse,
friends, he said. So they are grieving, and they are asking
God why they are suffering so.
Growing older isnt for sissies. That which gave you affirmation, that which gave you a sense of belonging, that which gave you a sense of value, thats gone, and youve got to give up on that, he said. The process is to empathize with them on those losses, and help them not feel guilty for feeling the loss.
A big part of any chaplains job is listening, and knowing how to get people to share what they want to share. Chaplains in the program at Addolorata Villa also pray with residents and organize prayer services, spiritual sharing and other group activities.
They learn by going out and visiting with patients, under the guidance of a supervisor, said the Rev. Jim Gullickson, who coordinates clinical pastoral education for Alexian Brothers Health System. Then the students go over the sessions with the supervisor and their classmates to learn what worked and what opportunities they might have missed.
If we see a missed opportunity, well ask them, where were you then? What were you feeling? said Gullickson, an ordained Lutheran minister.
The program operates as part of the clinical pastoral education at Alexian Brothers, and can be part of the formal training for people seeking a certificate in pastoral care, typically a prerequisite for a career as a chaplain.
But the program also is open to priests, deacons, volunteer ministers of care, anyone whose calling brings them into pastoral contact with senior citizens. Participants need not be Catholic, although the Catholic tradition at Addolorata Villa makes it an ideal setting to learn about the rituals, beliefs and spirituality of older Catholics.
Tessmer said Skonieczny came to them with the idea several years ago, at the same time Alexian Brothers and many parishes in the area realized that they werent focusing enough on older adults. People in medical institutions like Alexian Brothers saw that managed care was going to mean more and more older people would receive care in their homes, but parish clergy did not necessarily have the expertise to minister to them.
The pastors didnt have a clue that was going to happen, Tessmer said.
The program also fit the hospitals goal of serving the community, and it provides training in an area where there will be more jobs for chaplains, Gullickson said.
When Carol Jagielnik took the course last year, she wasnt looking for a new job. She teaches English at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, and has volunteered at Villa Addolorata for years, visiting nursing home residents and serving as a eucharistic minister in the chapel.
Shes hoping to continue her work at the nursing home, she said, because many of the residents love to have someone come and talk and share their faith.
I just feel closer to God when Im with them, she said. They have a lot of wisdom.