This is an archive page from a previous bus tour. Not all links may be operational.
Current Nuns on the Bus information can be found at

Barbara Dopierala

North Providence, RI

Pope Francis in his latest encyclical – Laudato Si calls the culture of relativism a disorder “which drives one person to take advantage of another, to treat others as mere objects, imposing forced labor on them or enslaving them to pay their debts. The same kind of thinking leads to the sexual exploitation of children and abandonment of the elderly who no longer serve our interests (Laudato Si, 123)".

Abandonment of the elderly- that caught my eye! As a Franciscan Missionary of Mary I am presently ministering among the elderly in a day center sponsored by my community. These women and men, now suffering the effects of age, have spent their lives for others - families and neighbors, church and society.

Leena in her mid-nineties lived alone. She loved being with other people, but she could no longer attend the town senior center because of her episodes of choking while eating. She asked if she could join our program, and we welcomed her. She was delightful and everybody enjoyed her company. Good supervision and medical care controlled the episodes.  Everyone was her friend!  As she laughed and talked with the others, her hands were busy knitting scarfs and blankets for those who felt cold. Frail but never defeated, Leena was always dignified and concerned for others. She would always keep some of her knitted products for the bazaar we have each year – so we would be able to continue the program.

Joseph, a mathematician who worked for NASA until Parkinson’s disease slowly but persistently claimed his hearing, sight and mobility. His inability to communicate his thoughts, was a great frustration.  I was trying to find a way to communicate with him through this barrier. Being Polish, I thought of Copernicus. I wrote his name in very large letters one at a time.  Then, I presented each letter to Joseph.  As I came to the end he looked up,  smiled and articulated very slowly, “Ah, Copernicus! He was Polish!  And the Polish are good mathematicians! After Joseph’s death his wife gave me a letter in which he had written for me, with great effort in somewhat distorted letters, the titles of the books about Polish scientists that I should read.

Jack was a recognized football coach whose health was declining due to brain injuries he suffered as a younger man. He was diagnosed with a progressive degenerative dementia that claimed his cognitive and physical functions. His wife asked us to help to care for him at the Center during the day. As his condition worsened, Jack’s anxiety increased and his behavior became unpredictable. One day we were preparing to hold religious services at the Center.  I was unsure if Jack would be able to participate and shared this concern with his wife. She smiled and said: “Sister, it is very easy, tell Jack he is an altar boy today and see what will happen”. She was right.  When I told Jack that today he would be an altar boy, he  immediately folded his hands in prayer and remained that way throughout the Mass. At that moment I became aware that this memory had touched something deep within Jack – a memory became alive that broke through all the barriers and communicated a deep peace and dignity to me.

Working together with the families helps them to cope and maintain dignity and integrity during difficult times. An increased percentage of the elderly population are experiencing greater need for health and social services at a time when the government is attempting to contain costs. This economic climate influenced by cultural relativism poses a real danger to the care of the elderly, who are less likely to receive preventive care, and who often lack access to doctors trained in their needs, or who face substandard conditions in nursing homes, and whose pensions are reduced.  (Ageism in America becomes hot topic – Health – Aging/NBC News).

As Franciscan Missionaries of Mary we are committed to be with the poor, the elderly and all who are vulnerable.  (FMM Provincial Chapter Resolution, 2015).

In our mission at Fruit Hill Day Services for Elderly (FHDSE) we respect the dignity of every person as a Gift from God, and  enriched by their gifts, we  minister to their needs.

Yet, we cannot do this ministry without  government assistance.  People like Leena, Jack and Joseph have been productive, valuable and contributing members to their families and society. Cutting financial assistance for programs like ours denies Leena, Jack and Joseph their passion for life. Please let us not abandon the elderly we no longer see their value. Assistance to small programs will enable so many wonderful persons like Leena, Jack and Joseph  to maintain their value and dignity to the end. And, “God will delight when we are creators of justice and joy” (Shirley Erena Murray).

Sr.Barbara Dopierala, fmm

Fruit Hill day Services for Elderly

399 Fruit hill Avenue

North Providence, RI 02911