People who were born between 1946 and 1964 are called Baby Boomers because of the significant increase in the number of births that occurred during that time. Baby Boomers are known for the significant social changes they contributed to, such as the great political and social changes wrought in the 1960s and their keen interest in causes ranging from environmentalism to the fight for minority and women’s rights.
In a 2014 Pew Research Center study, 59 percent of Catholic Baby Boomers indicated that religion was very important to their lives and 62 percent said they prayed daily. Considering they’re a generation recognized for their independent thinking and nonconformist attitudes, those statistics might seem surprising.
Yet with this distinctive generation now entering retirement in record numbers one wonders: How will Catholic Boomers use their time, talents and treasure to serve the Church – and how will they find spiritual fulfillment during this new, final and very different phase of their lives? (They themselves may be wondering the same thing).
We know that all Catholics are called to serve Jesus, but we know, too, that younger working adults pursuing careers and raising children find it nearly impossible to find the time, energy and space to devote themselves to faith, prayer and service. It’s possible that newly retired people used to the daily grind will find themselves with more free time – but no clear road map leading to deeper engagement with their faith.
Deacon Steve Greco, the founder of Irvine-based Spirit Filled Hearts ministry, thinks that retirement is the perfect time for middle-aged Catholics to use their unique gifts to serve the Church.
“We must understand that everything God has given to us has been to build up the body of Christ,” Greco notes. “Our ministries can mirror our gifts. If we worked in human resources, we can teach unemployed people networking and interview skills. Social workers can work with the poor. Physicians can volunteer their healing. Whatever your unique gifts, God has given them to you – and you can now use them for God’s purpose.”
Increased life expectancy means that we all live longer and healthier lives. “It is God’s desire that we not only enjoy life, take vacations and relax,” Greco says, “but use our time to love Him, serve Him and know Him in addition to serving His people.”
When suddenly faced with unstructured leisure time, Baby Boomer Catholics may succumb to inactivity and boredom until they realize that they can spend precious hours to be quiet before the Lord, read Scripture, learn to pray and partake of daily Mass.
They may even take the opportunity to get more training in catechism, join Bible study groups and attend spirituality courses in their spare time to improve their relationships with Christ.
“Retired folks have more time for adoration, either as individuals or as part of the community,” Greco notes. “They can begin to understand the critical nature of the body and blood of Christ and His power to heal them and give them strength.”
Baby Boomers’ perspectives have always been exceptional, so it makes sense that now-retired Catholic Boomers will have a unique approach to their golden years. “They don’t know how many years they have left during which they’ll be healthy enough to participate in the life of the Church,” he says, “and they know that this is the moment in their lives that they can use their gifts to serve in a deeper way.”
While retirement is a time to give, serve and be thankful, Greco says, “perhaps most important is that it’s a time to grow closer to Jesus, so that they can understand how much they are loved.”