By Ed and Nan Weber
Loreto On The Plains P.C.H. is an alternative approach to the crisis facing the infirm elderly – a crisis resulting from the breakdown in family life and communities which have traditionally been the support for these elderly people. At its root, this is really a spiritual breakdown which has evolved over several generations. Therefore, a Spirit-led solution is required.
This is being written on Pentecost Sunday. Nothing but a powerful movement of the Holy Spirit in hearts can provide the grace needed to launch a movement of life-affirming, merciful caregiving for the sick and terminally ill elderly. After Pentecost, Christians were inspired to risk everything for the Gospel. In our society today, we tend to be too security conscious, too fearful to risk jobs, houses, personal pleasures, a second car, etc. to care for God’s vulnerable little ones. Who is going to care for them if not those with merciful hearts hearing a call from God?
Answering the call
Nan and Ed Weber
Hearing God’s call to found Loreto On The Plains took some time and preparation of our hearts. We were anointed with the Holy Spirit in 1974. The fire of God’s love produced a dramatic change. The Spirit enabled us to follow Jesus as he led our family over the years. Eventually we were led to Hartley, Texas, where we founded the Holy Family Ministry Center.
Through the inspiration of saints such as Mother Teresa of Calcutta and Padre Pio, we were encouraged to devote all our time and resources to end-of-life issues, especially elder care, euthanasia and assisted suicide. Eventually we were moved to build a home where the marriage of medical care and spiritual care, in an atmosphere of love and prayer, could provide hope in a world where there often is little or none.
It was 10 years from the vision given to us in 1999 to the opening of Loreto On The Plains P.C.H. We have written a book, “The Miracle of Loreto,” which tells the story of the home that faith built – the faith of many who caught the vision because God planted it in their hearts. Whatever encouragement we give to others always comes from knowing that, for those answering the call, the Holy Spirit will provide the wisdom and fortitude.
The New Pathway of Care
We have learned many things as we’ve lived and discovered the meaning of “life-affirming healthcare,” which is as old as the Gospel. Our lived experience and knowledge have culminated in what we are calling the New Pathway of Care, remembering “with God all things are possible” (Matt. 19:26).
We were scared when we received the call to enter this battle for life at the end of life, but we said, “Yes.” We soon found out just what a journey of trust we were on. Every caregiver must be willing to reach deep inside their very being to find the root of faith spelled T-R-U-S-T.
God’s plan for us was to bring true love, physical and spiritual healing, hope and trust, and family to surround our residents who had grown frail and frightened. We found that they often had feelings of isolation and loneliness; of depression and uselessness; of being a burden and thinking, “Why am I still here?” We discovered the reasons for these feelings, the missing links that lie at the core of the mission of the New Pathway of Care. These missing links are relationship and purpose.
Relationship and purpose: keys to fulfilling days
Nan says that in nurses training they are taught not to get personally involved in patients’ lives, that they must keep a loving but professional distance and let other people handle “those things.” This isn’t the way we operate. While we certainly need others to help with many aspects of care and business, we need to be willing to lay down our lives for our friends! (Paraphrasing John 15:13)
Friend, Grandma, Grandpa, Aunt Mary, Uncle John, or Miss Annie – these are relationship names that reflect the closeness and care that is given to our residents upon entering our world. We are also called to enter their world. The greatest treasures of wisdom and grace come from these “little ones” of Jesus whom we have the privilege to care for and come to know. We are challenged to look “outside the box”; to see the person inside. It is refreshing and enlightening. They are witnesses to endurance and its fruits, and to the ability to adjust our lives to find peace. Where peace does not exist, we can bring it as we express love in many ways: listening to stories (over and over), sharing joys and sorrows, simple gifts of flowers and prayers, tasty meals shared with friends, birthday celebrations, popcorn and movies, etc. Life-affirming healthcare is full of LIFE. Loreto is above all a home, not a hospice.
When we are young and healthy, we contribute to society and the church in many ways, but when we are sick, injured, elderly and/or disabled, we may feel that we no longer contribute. Wrong! This is when we are most powerful. God’s “grace is sufficient” for His “power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9-10). This is where “the rubber meets the road.” At this state or stage in life, people are called to be intercessors, praying for others who are suffering and have no one to pray for them and for the salvation of souls who need prayer that day, that hour. What a glorious thought! “My life is not a waste. It is of more use now than ever before. Prayer for others is the finishing touch on my life.”
Family time together is vitally important. In Loreto we quickly learned what an asset our grandchildren are as they visit and play games with our residents and even read to those who are losing their vision. Children have a special gift of innocence and bring joy to the elderly, but they also need to be taught. Storytelling is one way to pass on the wisdom the elderly have to share, and they need to experience being needed in the important role of a child’s mentor.
Also central to this life is the ability to forgive and forget the hurts of the past. That occurs when we talk about the future with our new-found loved ones. The hurts of the past are just so much unnecessary weight; a heavy burden we will not be able to resolve on earth. Why? Because we cannot see with the eyes of Jesus. He invites us to leave the garbage behind “because it’s just too heavy to carry on Angels’ wings” as Colin Raye wrote in the song “On Angels’ Wings.” This piece of music is a real giver of peace and perspective for everyone involved in the journey with our new-found “grandma” or “grandpa” as they learn to trust in Him who is mercy itself. When we get to Heaven, these things will fade away in an instant as we behold the glory of God and begin our new life of glorious love and peace with Him who loves us all.
Homes of Life Across America
In opening our home and developing a loving atmosphere, we have been taken by the Lord through many stages and steps that merciful caregivers face. Love must be the heart of the home. Jesus said, “What you do for the least of these, my brothers, you do for Me” (Matt. 25:40-45). He also said, “Take up your cross and follow me” (Luke 9:23). We wish we could say there is an easier way, but self-sacrifice—giving of our lives—produces peace.
We believe God wants homes like Loreto all over our nation. These will be homes filled with life, where every human life is respected and protected. We call this extension of Loreto’s mission “Homes of Life Across America.” In order to make this vision a reality, many more people must enter the movement of faith that works to convert our self-focus into a focus on love and compassion for others.
The busy-ness of many people’s lives leaves little time for parents or grandparents, especially when they need help or special care. In Loreto they are made to feel like they are at home where they are an integral part of family life and have a sense of purpose.
We invite anyone who feels called to join in making this New Pathway of Care – Homes of Life Across America – a reality. Information about how to contact us is on our website, https://homesoflife.net. We will visit with anyone considering this vocation. We’ll come to speak to you as a family, as individuals, in your church, or to your group no matter the place or size.
Don’t sell yourselves short and certainly don’t sell short the power of Almighty God. Come, join in providing for these frail and elderly ones who have no rank in the world, but are the highest ranked in the Kingdom of God.
Note: Ed and Nan Weber will tell us more about Homes of Life Across America in a future edition of the HALO Monthly.