07 April 2018

A Trip to Curitiba

National meeting of the coordinators “La Pastoral da Pessoa Idosa”

From 22 to 25 March, the National Meeting of the coordinators “La Pastoral da Pessoa Idosa” was held in Curitiba, Brazil, with the participation of Vittorio Scelzo from our Dicastery’s Section for Life.

“La Pastoral” is a structure of social action of the Brazilian Bishops’ Conference which, through its 15,000 volunteers, monthly meets nearly 145,000 elderly people from the poor suburbs of the country’s 200 dioceses. The heart of its activity is visiting elderly people in their homes and, so, to concretely change their situations and show them the merciful face of the Church.

The volunteers establish with the elderly whom they visit—at least once a month—a stable emotional relationship and, starting with listening to their needs and through attentive accompaniment, they work to improve their living conditions.

“La Pastoral” wants to be an alternative to the culture of waste. Indeed, the elderly—as the testimonies presented during the meeting showed—often end up considering themselves a burden for their families, but the meeting with the “làderes” of “La Pastoral” restores the dignity of their lives.

The volunteers, mostly women (85%) and retired, describe being a part of “La Pastoral” as a rewarding experience that, on one hand, gives meaning to a season of life in which time expands and there are usually fewer goals and, on the other hand, represents an opportunity to feel part of the Church and to live the “mission” asked for by the Pope.

“La Pastoral da Pessoa Idosa” was founded in 2004 by Zilda Arns, a Brazilian laywoman whose beatification process is underway, following the model of La Pastoral da Criança, which she created in the 1980s. In the last decades, its engagement—which today reaches about one million children across the country and has extended to 19 other nations—has contributed to a marked decline in malnutrition in Brazil thanks to a network of volunteers linked to parishes they visit at least once a month, going to the poorest and most distant houses in the suburbs to teach mothers basic notions of hygiene, disease prevention, and health protection, especially during and after pregnancy.