Excellence Tempered by Gentleness: Pastoral Care with Elder Religious

Donna M Foley, Fordham University


Drawing from studies in elder spirituality, contemporary sources in the spirituality of the Sisters of St. Joseph, and methods of participatory research, this doctoral project sought to fill a gap for laity ministering to elder religious. The research culminated in suggestions for enhancing pastoral care at the Villa, and a draft of a brochure on pastoral care to be used in new employee orientation sessions at the congregation’s retirement facility. Research suggests that age- and culture-specific experiences challenge and transform spirituality in old age. Neglect of this awareness leads to unclear expectations of pastoral care on the part of the institution and ineffectual practice on the part of the minister. A movement towards clarity and effectiveness is supported by integrating the insights provided by existing research on a) elder spirituality and b) SSJ spirituality with c) a qualitative study with residents at Saint Joseph Villa about their spiritualities and their experiences of, and hopes for, pastoral ministry. So that my suggestions and the orientation brochure on pastoral care in this setting might reflect the expectations and spiritual needs of the residents, a survey of seventeen retired Sisters of St. Joseph of Philadelphia at the congregation’s residential facility was conducted. Methodologies of participatory research and appreciative inquiry were utilized in order to elicit insights relevant to pastoral care practice in this context. It is hoped that studies in elder spiritual care, SSJ spirituality, and the qualitative data mutually illumined one another, with an end product for employees on the “what,” “why,” and “how” of pastoral care at this site.

Subject Area

Spirituality|Religion|Clergy|Pastoral Counseling|Gerontology

Recommended Citation

Foley, Donna M, "Excellence Tempered by Gentleness: Pastoral Care with Elder Religious" (2021). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI28414931.