When I thought about retiring from my planned full-time ministry, I felt anxious and anxious about what that would mean for me at this time in my life. Having been involved in several different ministry activities in my 60 years of religious life, I knew this would be a pretty big change for me. As I got older, I felt that I still had the energy and motivation to continue making changes in my life.
It took me some time to reflect, discern, and pray before making this decision that affects my life in so many ways. It was also important to discuss this with St. Joseph’s sisters, family and friends, and wise people in my life.
Retirement isn’t about asking the question, “What are you going to do?” But more importantly, “Who am I going to be?”
So after deciding to retire, I had to decide what my priorities and goals were and how I was going to spend my time. This takes time and requires quiet time to pray and ponder what God wants you to do with your life.
I set up a retreat in the monastery and spent a week there reflecting on my past life and how God was guiding my life. Then I wondered, what does God want from me now that I have time to deepen my spiritual life and relationship with Him? And I know that what I do now and in the future comes out of that relationship.
Here are the priorities I’ve set for how I’m going to spend my retirement life: I from this:
- Deepen my spiritual life by spending more time in prayer and listening to God direct my life. Take time each day to “be present” and recognize the presence of God in my life.
- Deepen relationships with family, friends and sisters in the community. Find time to keep in touch and spend time together.
- Decide on a few volunteer activities that make a difference in your life and that you enjoy doing. And we are given time to just “be”.
- Take care of your health by incorporating exercise into your schedule.
- Be creative and spend more time doing what you love. For me this includes photography, painting, music, writing, reading and enjoying nature.
As I grew older and reached the last quarter of my life, I wanted to make the rest of my life here on earth meaningful and joyful. I am reminded of Morgan Freeman’s words in the movie The Bucket List about the two questions the ancient Egyptians believed were asked at the entrance to heaven. “Have you found joy in life? Has your life brought joy to others?” What else? “
So for me, it’s my life and my mission. To have joy in life and to bring that joy to everyone I meet. Because we are all called to holiness, I truly believe that I am the Christ that I bring to others. It was my “polar star” and the center of my life. I need to be the best person I can be. That way I can be the hand and heart of Christ to others.
I believe that our lives are ultimately about relationships, and how we develop those relationships gives life meaning. So my first goal is to deepen my relationship with God. But as a friend reminded me a while ago, keeping in touch with people in my life, spending time with them, and relating to others is also service and discipleship. It’s also a way of life. So now I have to take my time and do it.
Traditionally, the older you get, the more wisdom you gain through life’s experiences. Perhaps the time has come to utilize the gift of wisdom and all the gifts of the Spirit that I received as confirmation many years ago.
We need to take time to pray and consider how we can apply these gifts in our lives. I need to take inventory and identify my gifts, my talents, the way I relate to and be special to others, and use these gifts more intentionally in my life. By doing so, I will be able to spend my retirement with joy, peace and fulfillment.
So my retirement will be an adventure, a new beginning, a new way of being in my relationship with God and with all the people in my life. It is truly a challenge and a blessing.