Friday, August 27, 2010

...rewarding journey!

A 93 year old man said this statement to me today. "I had struggled to be who I am now." He is such a blessing to me, I learned a lot from his stories.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

"You don't have to have musical training."

"You don't have to have musical training."

A priest named Peter Abas recently led a group of Irondequoit seniors in spiritual exercises involving drums. (Why didn't St. Ignatius think of that?) Ironically, "harmony" is one of the stated goals of this percussive cacophony. The Catholic Courier of Rochester captured it for posterity on video.


Rochester Priest Studies Loneliness in the Elderly

By Amy Kotlarz, Rochester Catholic Courier

February 28, 2008

To get a handle on loneliness in the elderly, Father Peter Abas, parochial administrator at St. Anne Parish in Rochester, asked seniors he was counseling to describe their lives through art.

Together, they painted a picture. One woman contributed a cactus to the canvas.

“Life for her is a cactus -- so dry,” he said.

That was just one metaphor of many that seniors used to describe their lives to Father Abas as he researched his doctoral dissertation on how elderly individuals describe and interpret the experience of loneliness.

“Loneliness is the existence of a powerful void; the state of being overwhelmed with work and life; the state of emotional pain; and the state of no direction,” he said.

He earned his doctorate in education with a specialization in geriatric populations in December of 2007 from the University of Rochester’s Margaret Warner Graduate School of Education and Human Development. In addition to the doctorate, Father Abas also has three master’s degrees and has worked in a variety of fields, including youth ministry with street gangs in the Bronx. At St. Anne, Father Abas has led several initiatives for the elderly, including discussion groups and an intergenerational drum circle.

In January, Father Abas left to take a seven-week journey back to his native Borneo, where he grew up in the Malaysian state of Sabah. Speaking in an interview prior to his trip, he said he intends to continue his research by interviewing the elderly in Borneo as well. He said he plans to compare whether a different cultural background changes how people describe loneliness.

He said work on his doctorate “Loneliness and Lived Experiences of Elderly Individuals Living Independently: A Hermeneutic Phenomological Approach” took two years to complete. He recruited volunteers from throughout upstate New York who were 65 years and older and living independently. All were from different professional backgrounds, and his research subjects included a retired social worker, a retired English teacher and a retired professional truck driver.

Father Abas had the seniors describe their everyday lives, then he was able to interpret the meaning of the phrases they used and the words they said to him.

“I couldn’t jump to the conclusion of whether they were lonely or not,” Father Abas noted.

As he began to explore the theme of loneliness more, Father Abas asked people what they did when they were lonely, how they would explain the reason for their loneliness and how they would describe their experience with loneliness.

“Some of them found it easy to speak, and they were very open with their story,” Father Abas said. “Some found it really difficult.”

Although he was confronted with initial reluctance, Father Abas did have success when he asked the elderly to describe a favorite memory, which led to disclosures about loneliness.

“I could even see some of them really feel a burden in their lives,” he said.

Many used metaphors to describe their lives, such as a flowing river, a flower, a cross, a sunset, an oak tree, an entangled circle or a spinning top.

After a while, though, as participants continued meeting with Father Abas, some began to look at the world in more positive ways. For example, the person who described life as a flowing river amended the statement to say the river was not that treacherous.

“It’s flowing much better,” Father Abas recalled the person saying.

Sue Murty, director of social work at St. Ann’s Community in Rochester, said isolation and loneliness in the elderly can be caused by the loss of loved ones; the loss of independence, such as the loss of driving abilities; and the loss of physical abilities, such as hearing or mobility.

She said seniors often are reluctant to talk about being lonely, so neighbors and friends should keep watch for signs of changes in routine, reclusive behavior or depression. Another sign may be an eagerness to talk for a long time, she said. Friends and neighbors should begin asking questions if they see signs of loneliness, she noted.

“Start by saying, who else do you get support from? Are there other persons in your life?” Murty said.

Father Abas said other ways to cope with loneliness include having a strong faith, acknowledging the importance of prayer, accepting loss and coming to terms with the fact that a person is alone.

It also is important for seniors to take care of their health so that a loss of mobility does not isolate them, he said. Seniors also should consider the time and talents that they are able to give, and they should maintain social connections to counter loneliness.

“Within the church parish level, they can join a social-programming group or some involvement in their church,” Father Abas said.

Most importantly, seniors should turn to others if they are feeling isolated, he noted.

“The way to work through it is to ask for help from people,” Father Abas said.

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Monday, August 23, 2010


National and International Presentations

PARIS, FRANCE 5 – 9, JULY 2009.
International Presentations:
Presented at the World Congress of Gerontology and Geriatrics which was held in Paris, France.
With Professor Dr. Theo van Tilburg
Professor Social Gerontology
VrijeUniversiteit Amsterdam
With Professor Dr. J. Gierveld, J. (Honorary Fellow)
Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute
With Professor Dale Dannefer
Selah Chamberlain Professor of Sociology
Chair Department of Sociology
Case Western Reserve University
10900 Euclid Avenue
Cleveland, Ohio 44106-7124

...Great and fruitful work!

"I sensed during my reflective drumming that God is trying to have me realize that an important part
of why my spiritual journey has been so uniquely blessed by God, is because God created me
so we. God has always been so free with blessing me and in allowing me to know God's presence
with me." JHH meeting week of Dec 16 2009.
God seems to be giving me this message...
"Do not hide or deny that you are created in my image as I loved you into is is nothing to
be ashamed of...It is the reason I have blessed you so uniquely during your life journey...
the wheelchair is an appropriate symbol and remembrance of God's love for me." JHH meeting of
Dec 1, 2009.
Below is the product from the "Individual Therapeutic Integration: Painting/Art, Sacred Drumming &
Reflective Discussion.
God is Love - God is Light

I have given this painting the title: God is Love - God is Light
The aim in doing this painting is to represent my life journey as I currently "envision" it. During
the past few months, Fr.P has been companioning me and guiding me, with the assistance
of hand drumming, to allow me to discern my relationship with God. This was done by carefully
considering while drumming and in prayerful reflection, a multitude of my life "events." These were
the moments throughout my life when I felt I have been especially "close" to the Divine. Fr.P in
journeying with me, has been encouraging me to integrate these "events" into the context of my
entire life journey.
In the painting:
The outer blue area represents my "Sacred Void" which is in the "realm" that I am most easily
open to connecting with God alone, in prayer, Eucharist, dreams, Near Death Experiences, etc.
Throughout my whole life, I have felt God's presence with me but it is especially strong
and intimate when God allows me to enter my "Sacred Void."
The huge yellow circle centered in the "Sacred Void" represents the "light" which engulfed me
during my Near Death Experiences when I was a child. I feel that it is the closest a human
can come close to God and "live." Being an infant and young adolescent at these times and
not knowing people experienced such phenomena, allowed me to be very "open" to the
experiences. I always have and still seem to continue to compare everything in my life
to the wonderful warm,loving and comforting feelings that I remember experiencing at the time.
Everything else pales in comparison and the memory has never faded.
I am looking forward to traveling through the tunnel and once again being "united" with
the "light" (at the end my my earthly journey).
Next with the "light" is a fiery circle represent my awareness of God's "Love" which has continuously
nourished me throughout my entire life.
The heart in the center of this circle represents God's "Love" which has continuously nourished me
throughout my entire life.
The heart in the center of this circle represents God's "Love" for me, in which I find my great love
for God. These love feelings have come in prayer but I am always humbled by Eucharist.
It is always an opportunity to encounter Jesus directly and intimately but, also a reminder
of the extent of God's Love for me. Jesus coming among us to show us how to live as
"sister and brothers" with Him and the great "Love" His Father has for me. He also showed
God's great "Love" for me through His Incarnation,Dying, Rising, and Ascension.
In the center of the heart is the symbol for Jesus (Chi-Rho) at the top of an anchor.
Jesus is the anchor of my great love for God. Around the heart is an orange circle representing
fire and dynamic burning of God's Love (Holy Spirit).
I have placed within this fiery orange region, fertile green areas. They represent mysteries that
I cannot possibly know about God, (me being human) and areas of future growth in my "knowing"
God more intensely (what God chooses to reveal to me and invites me to know.) They are green
because of their potential for my growth. there are also a few openings in the green "barrier" to
represent the special "Light and Love events" which God has allowed me to experience.
Within the green area., I added the title which represents the primary focus of my journey.
God is Light 1 John Chapter 1:5
God is Love 1 John Chapter 4
FP added the lines extending the light into the blue "Void" to represent his companioning me
on this journey to find a better integration of my life experience.

,,,It did work and produced wonderful therapy!

Individual Therapeutic Integration : Sacred Drumming, Painting/Art and Reflective Discussion

Conversation took place and this was how the painting been painted on the canvas

Colors of Life

The dialogue that follows depicts her sincere reflections of specific feeling and its relationship to color.

She no longer felt inadequate as an artist by the time we finished discussing this – and – was very eager to

give her feeling about words and colors and to weave this creative plain.

FP: Thank you Sister, for sharing. Excellent.

Sister: Since I didn’t know what to do, the Lord did it.

FP: Sister, you said you are not an artist. If I can bring a big canvas here, you can express

with different colors. I think you can do that. For example, give me one word that was there.

Sister: Brilliant.

FP: Okay, brilliant, now if you had a canvas, what color, do you like to use. What color would you use?

Sister: I LOVE purple.

FP: Okay, then you love purple. Then I will be sitting down here, and I will play one music tape.

I will use a very simple music tape. I will use “Yahweh You are Near”. When I play that,

until the music stops and you just keep on moving. Your expression of brilliant will be in the color that you like.

What is the next one?

Sister: Dazzling.

FP: Okay dazzling. What color is dazzling for you, Sister?

Sister: Uh, red.

FP: Okay, red. How do you imagine that is going to be?

Sister: I think it could have many shades of red all around it and be dazzling.

FP: See, so we already have a kind of purple, and probably the red will be coming like

a sun-ray from the purple. The brilliantness and the dazzling, is coming. Now, pick one or two more words.

Sister: Okay, well, flowering.

FP: Ok now, what color do you like to express flowering with?

Sister: Oh, pink and blue or yellow.

FP: Ok. Where will we put that on that big canvas?

Sister: If it’s going to be flowering, it should be on the bottom coming up.

FP: Ok. Look at the interpretation now. This flower produces beautiful aroma.

If you put it towards the bottom, the flower will produce that brilliantness.

The brilliantness produces that ray. See how it is now?

Sister: And the last one will be resplendent.

FP: What color are you going to use for that?

Sister: Oh, I’d like a mixture of pink, like that.

FP: And where would you like to put that, when you imagine that now?

Sister: I think the whole thing is resplendent.

FP: So, in the background, like this, behind. So, it might be a little bit light.

Then, darker and darker, so that’s how it is. That’s exactly how you want to do it. We can work on it.

What a joy to see the fruits!

Group Therapeutic Integration: Painting/Art, Sacred Drumming & Reflective Discussion

Group members from the "Wisdom of the Drum" program who came together for three Fridays to
drum, to paint and to share their inner feelings. There were 26 participants who attended this
program ages between 60 to 93 years old.

Just follow your inner feeling and produce the beat according to how you are feeling!
The paintings become more vivid
"What a surprise to walk into the room where we were meeting Father Abas and his "Wisdom of the
Drums" and see a huge pile of drums and sticks in the middle of the floor! This was not going to be
a one-drum recital by Father; we were all going to play drums! It was an exciting moment when, at
Father;s direction, with smiles on everyone's face we picked up our sticks and flailed away at our
drums. Father said the drum covers were made of goatskin." By Virginia Fleche- Abstract from
Chrism, ISM December, 2009 Volume 7, Issue 4.
"The existence of inner peace in us produce the harmony of the sacred
sound of our drums." Abas, December 2009.
Gently move your hands, your mallets and beat the drum.

Through the sacred drumming a person can be inspired to express his/her feeling in painting/art.

Changes in our lives told in the Wisdom of the Drums

"Change has always been difficult for me. Times like when I moved to Rochester, being
in a strange place and not knowing anybody. The Serenity Prayer has been my daily strength.
Accepting some of these changes helps me be close to the Lord ever day. " -Josie Baccoli-
"Death is a big change in your life when it happens in your family.
Often this change will open
new doors and we move on. It may lead to opportunities for a new relationships
and new postives in your life." -Gen LaMendola-
I always have to be organized and I organize things. Sometimes things do not go my way
and I can't sleep. Then it suddenly comes to me that I've reached a point in life when
I have no control of things; myself, my children, everything. Then its in God's hands.
You surrender yourself totally to His will and ask for His guidance. You can always trust in Him.
-Ruby Talbot-
A lot of changes come to us and we don't see any choice at all- but we always have a choice in
how we accept change. If you can accept the change and move on that's the beginning
of some peace and some happiness in life.-Sandy Doran-
"There have been a lot of changes in my life but God has been good to me. I'm slowing down
taking longer to do tasks. But this is rewarding too. I am looking at my family more closely by
slowing down and really appreciating what's around me. It 's giving me more time to read
and pray. I work at letting go, not taking life so seriously, enjoying life and
being more encouraging to my family." -Mary Alice Meyers