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Religious Congregations

Work with Retired Religious
Janet Ahler, CSA, Wisconsin

"I am so refreshed, so peaceful, so at ease at being with others, and have such inner joy after I go to these classes" this spoken by an eighty year-old retired religious. Since I began my Capacitar classes I have been sharing with twenty-five to thirty religious women all of whom are retired from active ministry. The age of the Sisters ranges from early seventies to mid-nineties.

In the Spring of 2000 I agreed to become the Wellness Coordinator for a program that had begun two years previously. That program consisted of Yoga, Meditation, Aerobics and Tai Chi. At present the Yoga and Aerobics components continue and I share my Capacitar experiences on another day.

Early in my ministry as an instructor in professional nursing I had a deep desire to learn as much a I could about wellness and it's alternatives. As I came to the close of several years in administration of a retirement facility I was free to choose to become an active participant of the in-house wellness program. The Sisters are finding this program a strong force of enrichment in their lives.

Over the past year the group has met once a week for an hour in the mid-morning. During that time we have focused on Breathwork, Mindfulness, Guided Imagery, Tai Chi, Finger Holds, Acupressure, Massage, Thought Field Therapy, Reflexology of the hands, and work with the chakras. We have a large, comfortable space to gather in, and there is an appreciation for gathering in a large circle with a centerpiece of a live plant or flowers and a colorful cloth. We have met approximately thirty times since the program began.

Outcomes of this program are an increase in inner peace, a mindfulness of the global community of peoples and a joy in remembering them in prayer, increased ability to achieve lessening of anxiety, physical discomfort, shortness of breath and muscle tension, increase in energy and bodily movement and a growing knowledge that there are resources beyond medicine to achieve wellness. The Sisters constantly invite new community members to "come and see" the program that helps them feel so well.

This experience has been a ministry of joy for me. I find that I leave each session very energized. I personally use the program content and I experience the same outcomes in myself. An added joy is that I find that members of the group are teaching what they have learned to others in their home units. There seems to be a constant excitement about the program and an eagerness to continue coming. I believe there is an evident ripple effect throughout the facility: a pervasive peacefulness and energy for goodness.

Comments from the Participants:

"The gentle movements of Tai Chi have helped my stiff and painful shoulders keep flexible. I appreciate the exposure to various modalities; it is very helpful to learn what works for me."

"I use what we have learned as resources when a need arises. I have experienced relief from headaches, minor pain, lack of energy. I do some kind of exercises almost every day. It helps my arms and legs move easier."

"The exercises are so gentle and so prayerful, and I have been doing some every morning and it helps me to pray for everyone."

"I have appreciated the different phases of self-help, self-healing that you have given us. I use the hand reflexology because it is easily accessible for me and helpful. Tai Chi is very meaningful to me and I share it with one of my friends at a nursing home."