For some, the thought of reaching their 50s and 60s is practically akin to a death sentence. It’s almost as if life ends once they hit middle age and beyond it.
But for those who do not fear the idea of “growing old” and actually look forward to the blessings that it brings—wisdom gained from experience, a quiet confidence, and a genuine love and acceptance of oneself—the so-called senior years can be some of the best and most fulfilling years of their life. “Old age has a grace and a mission too, a true vocation from the Lord,” said Pope Francis in his General Audience at St. Peter’s Square in March 2015. “It is not yet time to ‘pull in the oars.’”
For these three seniors, life is far from over as they tell My Pope what they believe is their mission at this stage in their life.
Maria Reyes, 67, formation specialist
Mission: To bring people closer to God
My purpose is to use the life and gifts I have received from God to make others know Him and bring them closer to Him. I used to think that my purpose is to acquire life skills so I will be a productive, self-reliant member of society—until I met people who had a sense of mission. Through them I realized that there are people out there whose lives I can help become better.
Then I met people who opened my eyes to the reality that my life and much of what I enjoy in life come from God. This inspired me to lead others to this truth so that we may all, in gratitude for God’s generosity, be a reflection of God’s goodness to others.
Sonia Saldaña, 62, addictions counselor, retreat facilitator, Acupuncture Detoxification Specialist (ADS)
Mission: To help people live their lives to the fullest
I was an idealist at 30 and took Jesus up on His challenge to love my neighbor. I thought that I could help heal the world if only I loved my neighbor.
Then, reality struck and I realized that I needed to love myself first before I could love my neighbor. In the following years, I was faced with my own darkness and insecurities that I sought out ways to learn to love myself. In the process, I learned important life skills that have brought me to being in a very good place in my life now at 62 years of age, loving myself and loving my neighbor.
As I entered my senior year, I became more realistic and took on a new challenge from Jesus from John 10:10, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” I now try to live my life helping others to live their lives to the full by guiding them to love themselves first.
Mateo Macabe, 61, househusband
Mission: To continue being useful
As the seventh of 14 children born to parents who farmed and fished for a living in a remote area of Masbate, I decided early on that my purpose was simply to be useful. At 7, I would prepare food for my parents and bring it to the fields where they worked. I also looked after my younger siblings. But I wanted something better for myself and my parents, so at 15 I stowed away on a cargo and passenger ship en route to Manila. There, I found my kuya and studied high school at Maryknoll’s adult education program. I also worked as a utility man, waiter, janitor, messenger—anything to earn money that I could send to my parents. When I got married at 26, my purpose was to provide for my own family. I worked for various companies here, and endured the challenges of an Overseas Filipino Worker for 11 years.
Now that I am in my 60s, retired, and with children who have their own children, my purpose in life is to continue being useful to those around me—from my partner and friends to my children and their children. Even at my age, I still think I have something to contribute, and that is to live truthfully and be a good example to others.