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Empowering Aging Sisters: Avila Institute’s Commitment to Religious Communities

by Avila Institute Staff

March 11, 2024

Catholic Sister's Week

As we celebrate "Catholic Sisters Week," it's an opportune moment to reflect on the profound impact the Avila Institute of Gerontology (AIG) has had on the lives of aging Sisters within religious communities. Since 1987, AIG has stood as a beacon of education and support, particularly for the Carmelite Sisters for the Aged and Infirm, founded by the Venerable Mary Angeline Teresa McCrory, O.Carm. Their mission, deeply rooted in compassion, aimed to provide dignified care for elders—a mission that continues to guide AIG's endeavors to this day.

For over a decade, AIG has leveraged its expertise in gerontology and elder care to assist religious communities in caring for their aging members. Recognizing the unique challenges faced by these communities, AIG has provided tailored training in dementia care, geriatric spiritual care, and various aging-related issues. This commitment to empowering religious communities has recently led to the establishment of the Sisters Aging Well Together (SAWT) program—a testament to AIG's dedication to global outreach and collaboration.

You can learn more about the SAWT program in an article written in the Global Sisters Report.

Funded by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, the SAWT program has extended its reach beyond borders, offering invaluable training and resources to women religious congregations not only in the United States but also in countries like Mexico, India, Ghana, Kenya, and Zambia. By equipping representatives from these communities with essential knowledge and skills, AIG fosters a sustainable model of care, ensuring the well-being of aging Sisters worldwide.

The success of the SAWT program underscores AIG's ongoing commitment to the holistic care of aging Sisters. Looking ahead, the Avila Institute remains steadfast in its mission to expand the Sisters Aging Well Program, offering an array of resources tailored to the unique needs of religious communities. From in-services for sisters and caregivers to comprehensive webinars on aging topics, AIG continues to serve as a trusted ally in navigating the complexities of elder care within religious contexts.

Moving forward, the Avila Institute is continuing its Sisters Aging Well Program and aims to broaden its scope by providing additional resources for religious communities. This expansion includes offering in-services designed to benefit both religious sisters and their caregivers. Stay tuned for further updates.

In the meantime, explore our free resources tailored for religious communities:

  • Webinars on Aging Topics: Since 2011, the Avila Institute of Gerontology and the National Religious Retirement Office have jointly sponsored four annual webinars. These webinars address topics relevant to individuals in religious communities and are held live in February, May, August, and November.  You can also access recordings of past webinars for free here.

  • Care Transitions Tool: We have developed a comprehensive 54-page tool to assist Religious Communities of all sizes in identifying current and future issues related to care and transition. Recognizing that each community will have its unique set of goals and challenges during transition, we have organized the material into sections for use as needed in specific situations. Recently updated, this tool is now available as a fillable PDF, allowing users to type in information and save it for future reference. Learn more about and download the tool here.

As we commemorate Catholic Sisters Week, let us not only celebrate the invaluable contributions of Sisters to our communities but also reaffirm our commitment to supporting them in their golden years. Through initiatives like the Sisters Aging Well Program, the Avila Institute of Gerontology exemplifies the power of collaboration and compassion in ensuring that aging Sisters receive the care and dignity they deserve.

Together, let us honor and uplift the remarkable Sisters who have dedicated their lives to service and spirituality.

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