Joanne Hageman, 2009 GSC student

My participation in the Geriatric Spiritual Care Program, at Avila Institute, was truly a gift. Initially, my primary intent for participation was to allow myself an opportunity for personal discernment and exploration of opportunities / needs within the elderly population, and match them to my future aspirations and goals in life. Without a doubt, these objectives were met; however, along the way, I received many other significant, unexpected “gifts”.

By participating in the Geriatric Spiritual Care program, I feel that my own spirituality has been strengthened and renewed. Learning more about myself, my relationships with others, and my relationship with God, has made this course a priceless experience. I developed a deeper appreciation for the Eucharist, along with a renewed focus on the value of scripture and prayer in my daily life. It is my hope that my new awareness and understanding of the course content will not only benefit my work with the elderly, but improve all aspects of my life’s work and relationships.

In this program lay and religious participants and faculty share in the learning process, offering an invaluable opportunity to learn and listen to each other. Sharing in common values and having a strong commitment to our ministries with the elderly, we each offer unique perspectives based on our individual experiences and backgrounds. Our class truly enjoyed being together and, by the end of the course, had formed a strong bond of friendship and support. The format of the Geriatric Spiritual Care course was wonderful! How appropriate to spend the first half of the course in an academic, class-like setting, only to be followed by the week of clinical hands-on training at the Teresian House in Albany. Our graduation ceremony, held in the chapel of the Carmelite Sisters’ motherhouse in Germantown, NY, was simply beautiful.

In the presence of the Carmelite sisters of the community, the faculty of the program, and our invited family and friends, I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude for everyone’s prayers, love and support. As our beautifully wrapped course certificates were presented to us, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the “gift” this course had been in my own life, and those of my classmates.

Although I cannot yet answer “what’s next”, I am at peace in trusting that again, He will lead, and if I follow, I will not be disappointed. Perhaps the greatest gift of all, lies ahead, as we each uniquely say “yes” to share our skills and love with the elderly to whom we will serve.