Twilight of Joy: The Spirituality of Elder Women Religious

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Mewhort, Rose
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Research that addresses the implications of a religious/spiritual worldview is now relevant in clinical, academic, and policy domains. The field of gerontology is putting greater emphasis on the challenge of understanding the â inner lifeâ of the aging individual. Person-centered care and strength based clinical perspectives are dependent on research processes that examine the content of highly subjective religious experience. Institutional changes in health care, social services, and pastoral care require research initiatives that challenge stereotypical views of aging. This study explored the complex phenomena of spirituality from the perspective of elder women religious. The interpretive paradigm and an ethnographic method guided research questions that centered on the lived experiences of Christian spirituality during the aging passage. I asked nine volunteer elder women religious to reflect upon the changes in their spiritual perspective as they encountered the adaptive requirements of aging. Dedicated women religious explored questions relating to the challenges and possibilities of aging with emphasis on the spiritual dimension. 5 Jungian psychology and feminist theology provided theoretical frameworks from which to analyze the research data. Depth psychology encouraged exploration of intuition and metaphorical self-expression. Feminist theology provided for a feminine sense of the sacred. Analysis included comparison of definitions, concepts, and theory presented within the academic literature and the subjective descriptions of the spiritual journey as understood by the participants in this specific denominational context. Priorities for spiritual development included a continued emphasis on prayer, community, and service. The later years invited the respondents to a deeper appreciation of contemplative prayer. The life-span relational orientation to God and others persisted into the very late stages of elderhood. The respondents welcomed new social roles that accommodated changes in physical status. Their vitality included a positive attitude toward world, self, and others that transcended hardship and limitations. Transcendence included acceptance of difficulties as part of authentic human experience. Hopefulness and joy expressed the capacity to live in the present moment with acceptance of future uncertainties. Celebration, compassion and social justice characterized a transformative vision.
Feminist spirituality , Nuns , Spiritual life , Aging -- Religious aspects , Sisters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul , Nova Scotia , Older women -- Religious life , Halifax