Responsibilities of the Church
and Your Parish

While dioceses and parishes are doing a better job of addressing the needs of seniors, in general the scope of that service has not yet broadened to include support for caregivers. Simply put, the Church hasn’t caught up with you yet.

You are a pioneer—a trailblazer. Where you are leading, the institutional Church is beginning to follow. There will come a day when every parish will offer support for caregivers. When that day arrives, pro-life offices will offer material on caregiving, including how to help caregivers. Respect Life Sunday sermons will feature this unique ministry, and at those Masses caregivers will be remembered in the prayers of the faithful.

This will happen in large part because of the work you are doing today. Your legacy will include helping not only families, communities, and the workforce find ways to assist caregivers, but the Church, too. You are making the challenge of caregiving less daunting for future generations of caregivers.

Here is what the American bishops have said about caregivers, along with some suggestions for how a parish can help its caregivers right now. This is from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ "Blessings of Age: A Pastoral Message on Growing Older within the Faith Community" (1999):

We know that caregivers themselves need care. The responsibilities of caregiving can be emotionally and physically exhausting. Some of you are simultaneously caring for children and older relatives. Many of you are employed; some of you have had to adjust work schedules. Finances can be a serious concern. Some of you who are priests and religious are also dealing with these issues. You have a right to expect support from:

Your Faith Community

The parish has a responsibility to provide spiritual and other support for caregivers, for example, by helping to form support groups for caregivers, referring you to community resources, sponsoring adult education programs that deal with issues of particular concern to caregivers, or periodically recognizing and blessing caregivers.

Too often, however, as a Church and as a society we have not provided adequately for the needs of caregivers. As more people provide care—and as more people receive care for longer periods of time—we must respond to this new reality. We must look for ways to support caregivers who are themselves growing older, who are trying to balance multiple responsibilities, and who can expect to provide care for a number of years. Respite care is one possibility to explore.

"Blessings of Age" is available through the publishing department of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) You can find it online here.