Resisting Retirement

“Pass on the baton” refers not only to a new conductor or parade majorette—it’s a term often used to indicate a major passage of life. Facing retirement, a person may declare: “It’s time someone else takes over.” Then there’s another saying heard with some dismay: “A woman’s job is never finished.” That’s usually indicating that domestic work goes on and retirement doesn’t ease it much.

While aspects of a sister’s work may, in time, be transferred to a younger professional, still her commitment to others remains. Teaching and health care employment may cease to occupy her days, yet valued contributions of time and service continue. One can hardly imagine life without giving to some extent. The value of ministry is the blessing it continues to provide even as one ages, so work remains a core part of a sister’s day.

Currently at Saint Scholastica Convent, our retirement center in St. Cloud, Minn., there are just under 60 sisters with a median age of 87. For these sisters, ministry continues in a variety of ways. For many, responsibilities demand daily initiatives that the community appreciates. For all, courtesies are expressed in showing interest in others and offering ongoing gratitude.

For these sisters, work is just a part of life, and they find satisfaction in it. While it is not employment, jobs include maintaining files, accompanying other sisters to appointments, folding laundry, providing a lovely environment indoors and outside, purchasing supplies, directing volunteers, overseeing liturgy, and working at the reception desk. None of that indicates a recliner form of retirement for a sister in her 80s or 90s!

When asked what work means for these seniors, sisters were eager to reply

 » “I love doing odd jobs. It’s fulfilling without being stressful!”

» “Carrying trays gives me a chance to interact with the sisters.”

» “Everyone can do something. Count on the sisters. They do follow through time and again.”

» “I have the privilege of serving in the food line. It is amazing how much I can learn about each sister by the way she relates to the food and to those who serve her.”

Ruth Feeney, OSB

This article was featured on page 24 in the spring 2024 issue of Benedictine Sisters and Friends.

Photo: Left to right: Sisters Mary Zenzen, Leora Juettner, Marlene Meierhofer, Lydia Erkens, Anita O’Keefe and Marina Schlangen