SAR Directorate’s Aging with Grace Video Series:
A Moment with Alan Thomas in St. Petersburg, Florida

HNP Communications Uncategorized

In the latest video installment of the Aging with Grace series, Alan Thomas, OFM, makes it very clear why he is content in retirement ministry at St. Anthony Friary in St. Petersburg, Florida.

“Life here is very good – because I don’t like snow,” Alan says in the December 2022 release of the monthly video series, A Moment With… Aging with Grace, produced by HNP’s Sick, Aged and Retired Directorate and SAR Directorate chair Matthew Pravetz, OFM.

The series, launched last summer by the SAR Directorate, highlights elder friars in 2-to-5-minute videos sharing their wisdom and personal stories and experiences about Franciscan life, vocation, ministry, and retirement. Joe Juracek, OFM, is the series videographer, and Kevin McGoff, OFM, is the editor.

In his video, Alan talks about his adjustment to retirement and changes to his spiritual life.

“Retirement has been a whole different ball of wax. I had to find what I was going to do in my retirement. Because I have somewhat of a medical background, I [decided to] volunteer at St. Anthony’s Hospital (in St. Petersburg) and had been doing that for many years,” explained Alan, adding, “[that is,] until dreaded COVID came. No one [could] volunteer at the hospital [during COVID].”

Alan, who has lived in St. Petersburg for a decade since moving from the Province retirement house and the cold, snowy winters of Butler, New Jersey, earned a certificate in radiological technology in 1972 at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, and later worked at Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn.

Since his hospital volunteer ministry was suspended during the pandemic, Alan says in the video that he has found “several [other] different little ministries” to keep busy. “I spend a lot of time alone because I choose to do that. I read a lot and I also pray a lot,” he says.

Alan also asserts in the video that his spiritual life has changed dramatically. “It has become a lot more realistic for somebody like me who has problems hearing. I feel like I am in a very comfortable spot in my life. The community here is wonderful, it’s very supportive,” says Alan, who began to lose his hearing in 1987, a condition whose progression forced him to take a year off from his Franciscan ministries in 1992 to attend Gallaudet University to study lip reading and sign language. But he used this physical setback when he returned to ministry in 1993, serving for 10 years as coordinator of Catholic Charities’ Office for Persons with Disabilities in the Diocese of Rockville Centre in New York. Of all his ministries, Alan – a self-declared “people person” – enjoyed parish ministry the most, he once said in an article in a 2016 HNP newsletter that featured his 50th year as a professed friar.

As for aging and living in fraternal community, Alan – who professed his first vows in 1966 and four years later made his solemn profession – had this to say: “We are all at the age where we let one another do their thing. We support one another in any way we can. And yet, it is our own individual responsibility to be accountable not only to the community, but to our God.”

Alan ended the video with an invitation to his brothers: “If you ever get a chance, come on down and see me!”