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We all get very angry if elderly people are neglected or are being overlooked in their needs.
There is a category of elderly people in Ireland today who have given their whole lives in caring for Irish people freely but who are now very dependent on care and help themselves because of the weakness of old age.
I speak of the great numbers of ageing religious sisters, brothers and priests (numbers of them returning from lifelong labours in missionary countries).
In a few years, unless there is a miraculous change on the vocations scene, there will be no religious sisters or brothers and indeed very few priests.
Hundreds of thousands of Irish people have benefited enormously from the education provided by the women and men of the teaching congregations over many decades.
Not only did these dedicated people provide excellent education but, being fully qualified teachers, their salaries were used to subsidise the building of their schools and the subsequent maintenance of the schools.
Above and beyond their teaching service these religious often provided ancillary exercises in sport, dramatic and musical performances, etc.
The State also owes a great debt of gratitude to the religious congregations for their self-sacrificing work in medical care. Many of our hospitals were built and until recent years were being staffed by religious. Again, like their colleagues in the educational field, the salaries of the religious in medical work were used to subsidise the running costs of hospitals to the benefit of the Irish State and people.
Practically all specialised and caring medical services in relation to helping young people with visual, hearing complaints and those with emotional or mental disabilities have been in the care of religious congregations in Ireland. I would trust that people who have benefited from being taught in religious schools or whose families were cared for by religious would rally to support the religious who, in the weakness of old age, are deserving of care. Hopefully “eaten bread is soon forgotten” will not become a reality in the lives of aged religious sisters and brothers.
Fr Con McGillicuddy
Sacred Heart residence
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