Working with the elderly has taught me patience
- Created on Sunday, 02 October 2011 03:13
We asked our employees, volunteers and A.J.J. members how they see their work with the elderly as “pro-life” work.
From Enfield, Connecticut, live-in volunteer Katy Lover responded, “I have come to discover that caring for the elderly, the infirm, and the dying is truly a ‘pro-life’ ministry. Yes, our society most often associates the term ‘pro-life’ with issues surrounding the unborn. As important and beautiful as the ministry of protecting and safeguarding the rights of our frail and vulnerable unborn is, I believe that we can, many times, overlook the importance of fighting for the preservation, dignity, and protection of our elderly. … Our culture is very ‘work/achievement-oriented,’ and the elderly no longer fit into that ‘successful’ category. Though they experience physical and mental decline more and more with each passing day, and though it can be hard to be patient with them, I have come to see that the elderly have much to offer someone like me, who is just as ‘achievement-oriented’ as most others in our society. Working with them has forced me to be more patient, humble.…”
Katy is pictured working at a bake sale at St Joseph's Home in Enfield.
October is Respect Life Month
- Created on Friday, 30 September 2011 00:00
Catholics around the United States celebrate October as RESPECT LIFE MONTH. When we think of the pro-life cause, we usually think of abortion and other issues associated with the beginning of life. But this year, it seems like a providential moment to ponder the lives of the elderly. There are three reasons for this.
First, recent political debate in our country has focused on health care issues, with heated discussion on the aging of our population and the burdens this imposes on our arguably inadequate system of medical and social services. Second, the recent beatification of Pope John Paul II has evoked the memory of his last days on earth, with the powerful witness he gave of a life so “grace-fully” and generously lived to the very end, despite obvious infirmity and suffering.
The third and most significant reason why this is such a providential moment to reflect anew on end of life care is that the United States Bishops have recently published a document entitled To Live Each Day with Dignity: A Statement on Physician-Assisted Suicide. This letter, and other resources provided by the Bishops on their website, are a valuable read for anyone who cares about the dignity of human life (http://www.usccb.org/toliveeachday/).
It is striking—and indicative of Catholic teaching—that in writing about death, the Bishops speak more about living than dying. They speak of how to live one’s last days as fully and meaningfully as possible, and of how to surround those who are dying with the loving care they deserve. The first lines of their statement exemplify this approach, which is so grounded in the Culture of Life:
To live in a manner worthy of our human dignity, and to spend our final days on this earth in peace and comfort, surrounded by loved ones—that is the hope of each of us. In particular, Christian hope sees these final days as a time to prepare for our eternal destiny.
The Church neither denies nor sugar-coats the obvious realities of suffering and death. Rather, she urges believers to experience them in the light of Christian faith and hope, uniting them to the redemptive sacrifice of Jesus Christ. In his encyclical on the virtue of hope, Pope Benedict wrote that “A society unable to accept its suffering members and incapable of helping to share their suffering and to bear it inwardly through “com-passion” is a cruel and inhuman society” (Spe salvi, n. 38).
This month we invited Little Sisters, staff, volunteers and Association Jeanne Jugan members to reflect on their work with the elderly, especially those nearing the end of life’s journey. We asked them how they see this work as “pro-life” and what lessons they have learned from the Residents. We also invited them to share stories of particularly memorable moments spent with the dying. Each day we will share the thoughts of our collaborators. From their insights it is clear that those who participate in our apostolate do not see this work as without hope. They know how to share in the sufferings of others in a way that makes them, in some way, their own—this is compassion.
Taste and see ... how good the cookies are
- Created on Tuesday, 13 September 2011 03:06
Many of our homes enjoy the presence of seminarians who come on a regular basis for their apostolic experience. Usually they can count on participating in Mass and other devotions, engaging in conversation with the Residents, leading a rosary or Gospel sharing group and perhaps serving in the dining room or sharing a meal with the elderly. These unsuspecting seminarians had no idea what they were in for when they began their rotation at St Joseph’s Home in Enfield, CT. They were about to learn a whole new meaning to the psalmist's words, "Taste and see the goodness of the Lord!"
Master bakers? Not quite, but they’re on the way as they take cookie baking lessons from 102 year old Mary Falzone. While they might have been out of their comfort zone a bit, David Madejski, Glen Dmytrycyn, and Ramon Garcia were eager to contribute to the Residents’ efforts in preparation for an upcoming bake sale, the proceeds of which were destined to help a young woman in discernment to pay off her educational debts. High school volunteer Jenny Carifa lends a hand as well. Could there be a tastier ... worthier cause? We usually pray the Lord of the Harvest to send laborers into his vineyard. Maybe we should add the bakery to our prayers!
A Day in the Life of a Collecting Little Sister
- Created on Thursday, 15 September 2011 20:37
It’s only noon and it’s already been a good day—Providence never sleeps! Sister Caroline and I set out before dawn for Chicago’s produce market, praying the rosary together as the sun rose over the city. Now we’re headed home after our morning rounds, our “begging van” full of fresh fruits and vegetables. All of them were donated by the generous merchants we visit each week at the market. These rough and ready men have a soft spot in their hearts for the needy elderly we serve at St. Mary’s Home. Just like our foundress, St. Jeanne Jugan, I often think to myself, “Our benefactors, what would we do without them?” READ MORE
Vocation is a Family Affair
- Created on Saturday, 03 September 2011 14:45
"What happiness for us to be a Little Sister of the Poor!" (St Jeanne Jugan)
This is what could be seen on the faces of fourteen Little Sisters who made their perpetual commitment on Sunday, August 28, 2011.
Fourteen Little Sisters from eight countries had been preparing for a whole year at our motherhouse in Brittany, France, in the very places where Jeanne Jugan, our foundress, lived and died. For me, it was a special joy, since my blood-sister is one of them. The auxiliary bishop of Lyons, France, Monseigneur Jean-Paul Battu, presided at the beautiful ceremony, which was especially touching when the congregation sought the intercession of all the saints—especially the intercession of Saint Jeanne Jugan—during the Litany of Saints. Then the Little Sisters advanced in groups of four or five to make their profession “in the presence of the Blessed Trinity … I promise to observe faithfully the vows of chastity, poverty, obedience, and hospitality … forever in the Congregation of the Little Sisters of the Poor.” Mother General Celine de la Visitation and her Council welcomed the Little Sisters with an embrace in the name of the whole Congregation.
In his homily Bishop Battu emphasized how relevant our apostolate near the elderly is today, in spite of other homes and facilities that provide care for them. In his diocese of Lyons, we have three homes, and he said how much they are needed because the Little Sisters not only take care of the bodies, but more importantly provide an atmosphere of faith and peace for the elderly.
After the Eucharistic celebration, we all assembled in the “Grande Salle,” a large room used for ceremonies and gatherings, to learn the assignments of the Little Sisters and their new missions. This was as international as their countries of origin, since we have homes in over 30 countries. Three Little Sisters are destined for the United States—Latham, NY, Enfield, CT, and Gallup, NM. Other countries receiving the Little Sisters included Algeria, Benin, India, Colombia, France, and Spain. My sister, Sr. Birgitta, will be serving in Brussels, Belgium. It was truly a touching moment to see these young women giving their lives to God in response to his call, ready to go anywhere in the world with the sole desire of serving Jesus Christ in the elderly.
For me it was an occasion to renew my own commitment and to rejoice with my family in the great gift of a religious vocation. May many other young women discover the great joy of belonging entirely to Christ and serving his people in the footsteps of Saint Jeanne Jugan!
– Sister Cornelia Maria de la Croix is a native of Germany and entered our Congregation in 1997 after getting to know the Little Sisters in Baltimore and Washington, D.C. Her sister felt drawn to our community after witnessing Sr. Cornelia’s first profession and visiting her sister on mission. While Sr Cornelia made her first novitiate in the United States, Sr Birgitta entered in France and received all of her formation at the motherhouse. Sr Cornelia is a member of our community in Philadelphia.
Photo, right: Sr Birgitta (center) pronounces her vows, along with other Sisters in her group. Mother General Celine de la Visitation receives the vows. Left: "Big sister," Sr Cornelia (Left) with her "little sister" Birgitta.