Executive assistant Kristen Wise

Staff member Kristen Wise, who helps organize the SOAR! grant program, shares what SOAR! means to her.

This time of year the SOAR! mailbox is overflowing daily as grant requests pour in from congregations of aging men and women religious from across the country and even Puerto Rico.

As the point of contact for our grants-giving program, I am often the first person to see these requests.  While it can be easy to get bogged down in the piles of paperwork, each time I review a proposal I can’t help but call to mind that the request is representative of multiple Brothers, Sisters, and Priests that have a real visceral need for assistance. The needs can vary from hearing aids to handicapped accessible vans, to renovations or safety and medical equipment that will allow infirm religious to age with dignity and grace while remaining in their communities.

SOAR! President Sr. Kathleen and executive assistant Kristen Wise look over grant applications.

Being a member of the SOAR! staff allows me to be on the front line of advocacy for these Sisters, Brothers and Priests who have spent their lives serving in various ministerial roles with charisms that range from teaching to caring for the poor. They have done so much in their lives to serve so many and have formed multitudes of people through their encounters. Our donors make it possible for these incredible men and women to be cared for just as they cared for all of us during their working years.

I personally have lost both of my parents at a young age and will never know the joys and trials of the journey that comes with caring for an elderly parent, but I am aware of many who have taken on that responsibility and caring for their parents is a full-time job at times. I was moved at a SOAR! gala dinner two years ago when honoree John Tressler likened donating to SOAR! to caring for his own elderly mother.  He invited all donors at the event to realize they are part of the “family” of SOAR!.  The congregations of religious that come to SOAR! for help have dedicated and sacrificed everything for their service to the Church; including parenting children. But we are their “family”; we are their “children.” Many of us can call to mind various religious that have helped shape us into the men and women we are today.  They loved us and shepherded us through our formative years and gave us an example of Christ.

Each year SOAR! is able to fund about 1 million dollars in grants due to the generosity of our “family” of donors. Even with that generous amount of funding we are not able to assist all the worthy requests we receive.

Sr. Kathleen Lunsmann, IHM, the president of SOAR!, has often said elderly religious need your help today. It’s so very true. Let’s do all we can to fill this stage of their lives with dignity and respect. Men and women religious have been our teachers, mentors and champions and have always done so with a servant’s heart. We are their “family” and they’ve given so much for the betterment of our lives. And SOAR! invites us to an opportunity to do the same for each of them.