May 20, 2005

Faithful Lines / Shirley Vogler Meister

Seniors helping seniors: an innovative service

One Sunday after Mass at my Indianapolis parish, I greeted a woman who was worshipping nearby. In subsequent conversations, I learned that Christ the King parishioner Joann Ash—a longtime nurse—is an extraordinary minister of holy Communion and an active member of St. Vincent de Paul Society who visits shut-ins and the sick. Now I consider her a gentle friend and a wise woman.

Having lunch with Joann one day, I realized that she and I both know from difficult personal experiences that care for the elderly in many nursing homes and hospitals is not adequate. We also know that most people don’t comprehend what some elders must endure. Some even think newspaper exposès in newspapers are exaggerations or extreme cases. Not so!

Joann Ash and I also realize how important it is to keep elders in their homes as long as possible. In fact, she helps do this as an employee of Home Sitting Seniors of Central Indiana, which provides companion care services for those needing assistance. Barbara Stayton founded Home Sitting Seniors in 1992 after discerning the benefits of “helping people continue to live in their own homes, as well as seniors as their care partners.” (Home Sitting Seniors, trademarked as “seniors helping seniors,” also provides care for pets in their homes.)

Stayton enthusiastically praises her staff: “I am so fortunate to have such a wonderful group of people working with our clients. They are caring and compassionate … . They are totally committed to the work they do, and they develop wonderful relationships with the people they are helping.”

Recently, Stayton needed assistance because of serious illness. She was a patient at St. Vincent Hospital and its rehabilitation center, but her care is still being monitored. Her church, North­minster Presbyterian, where she is volunteer co-director of Older Adult Ministries, held a prayer vigil for her recovery. Joann and I have requested prayers for her in our parish, too.

The members of Northminster Presbyterian Church and nearby Christ the King Parish have a meaningful connection that began long ago when the grade school suffered a destructive fire. Northminster came to our parish’s rescue, turning part of their building into temporary classrooms. For years, the two congregations alternated sponsoring Lenten and Advent services.

Stayton appreciates the spiritual and practical help coming her way. She is improving enough to once again connect with the staff of Home Sitting Seniors, and she anticipates continuing with other ministries, too. She can be reached via or 317-733-5056.

Each one of us is only a health crisis away from becoming dependent upon others. Let us remember not only those with needs, but also those who are helping in the spirit of Jesus Christ.

(Shirley Vogler Meister, a member of Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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