Fr Noel Vassallo’s face beams as he walks into Roseville to say Mass and hold other liturgical celebrations for the residents.
The 62-year-old priest from Mġarr has been offering this service to the residents with the help of other priests for the past 10 years, ever since the CareMalta elderly home opened its doors. In fact, he has become both a spiritual figure and a friend for many of the residents who live there, as well as a point of reference for the home’s management team.
The former parish priest of Attard, who is based at the Curia, has built many a strong and lovely relationship with these residents over the years. In fact, they all look forward to his daily visit like manna from heaven.
“When Roseville first opened in 2010, as a parish we took it upon ourselves to provide pastoral care to the residents. Even now that I am on my own in this endeavour, as a result of a shortage of priests in all parishes, I will still continue to offer this service for as long as circumstances permit,” Fr Vassallo says.
“As a Church, we have come to realise that our mission to help people in their daily spiritual lives still stands today, more than ever, especially now that the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting the global population in drastic ways, with older persons facing the most threats.
“I feel that the Church in Malta owes this service to these residents, who have had to leave their homes and change their way of life for health and other reasons. Before moving to Roseville, many of these residents used to attend Mass and lead very spiritual lives. I feel we should help them to continue embracing their spirituality, as this gives them a sense of inner peace.”
Fr Vassallo says that the Church in Malta was becoming ever more conscious of needing older persons more than the other way round.
During his daily conversations with the residents, particularly over the past two years, he tries to make the residents realise that they now have a more important role to play within society.
“You are the new cloister religious in today’s society,” he tells them. “In your younger days, you were the ones who humbly asked the Church for intercession through prayer. Now that monasteries, convents and religious vocations are dwindling, you, as a community of older persons living together in this home, should take this opportunity to pray for the Maltese people and the Church in Malta, who really need your help.”
During these difficult times of the COVID-19 pandemic, when older persons are suffering the brunt of isolation from both society and their loved ones, Fr Vassallo believes that older persons have entered a new phase of spirituality.
“They have now become ‘hermits’, leading a solitary life. Ageing during coronavirus times has not been easy for these residents. But older persons need to know how much they are valued, especially by the Church in Malta, who sees them as a big asset in today’s world.”