EDWARD’S CHRISTMAS SEASON AT S.J.S.H.
Well, here I am once again writing about my experiences in the “Assisted Living” quarters of the Saint Joseph Senior Home. My previous three postings wrote about my earlier days here, (and they’re still posted on the Blog if you’re interested). I will now expand on the time period and relate my time here during the 2019-2020 Advent and Epiphany Seasons, which will bring my time here to one year.
There are many activities to write about. Many typical to those seasons in the USA and others that are new and taken here from Poland by The Little Servant Sisters of the Immaculate Conception community and our Chaplain Polish Father Paul and the resident Polish Priest Father John. There are gatherings expressing hope, peace, joy and love in the expectation of the birth of Jesus. The Advent season begins with a resident lighting of the first Advent candle marking the four weeks in December up to Christmas. During that time there is a grand party for the entire staff and volunteers invited with their families. A large buffet of traditional Polish foods like ravioli-type dumplings with mushroom fillings, pierogi with cabbage and mushrooms, homemade babka and salads. The desert table is filled with delightful desserts including poppy seed rolls, honey cakes, shortcakes with almonds, nuts and raisins as well as other stewed fruits. A fully clad Santa Claus makes an appearance carrying toys and sweets for the children. In Poland, many families start Christmas Eve supper by sharing the Christmas wafer, (Oplatek). This is a thin wafer of bread made of white flour. Following a centuries-old tradition, they only begin eating after giving their best wishes to each other. The Christmas wafer is a symbol of forgiveness, reconciliation, friendship and love. The material, it is made of – bread – emphasizes the earthly nature of those wishes.
During Advent the entire building is fully decorated with flowers, banners, ceiling hangers, door wreaths, table cloths, small Christmas trees on each table, and if a resident wants, the individual’s room is decorated showing a very joyful scene. Back in the dining room, Christmas carols and other entertainments by a variety of local groups resound throughout the building, a solo singer/dance MORENO FRUZZETTI sang in several languages with dancing, then we enjoyed the STARLITE CHORALE and THE HOLY FAMILY PRAYER GROUP singers during following days. Even a Santa Claus in full regalia came all the way from OUR LADY OF CZESTOCHOWA in South Plainfield, NJ carrying gifts to each resident’s room accompanied by a fanfare of Sisters having joyful laughter and happy comments. That was novel at the adult level here, but certainly causing feelings of great pleasure and happiness.
A tradition exclusive to our Community of Sisters here as well as the residents who would like to attend, is a four-hour prayer and meditation service including the exposition of the BlessedSacrament, the Holy Rosary and Chaplet of Divine Mercy. These personal life meditations involve the past year’s worthy happenings as well as those that need improvement. There will be also Reconciliation available. The ending on this exercise will be with a small party in the dining room with some snacks and sips of champagne to mark renewals.
There are Christmas Creche’s set up throughout the building, (in the Assisted Living Chapel, the Skilled Nursing Chapel, and the Dining Room) each done in beautiful and traditional decor with each waiting for the appropriate time for the placing of the “Baby Jesus”. There is a special activity that takes place from the Creche in the Assisted Living Chapel. The priest will Bless the “Baby Jesus” and lay “Him” into the prepared crib. A resident will carry the “Baby Jesus” from this Chapel to another Creche in the dining room lounge, many seated residents there will hold, kiss and pass it to another resident who will do likewise. The final holder will place the statue into the prepared Creche. This again is traditional for the Polish people. Christmas Mass is a big event and the Chapel is filled with not only residents but with friends and neighbors who come to mass here every year to partake of a very joyful Mass with singing and good cheer.
One more event that comes here via Poland is the Blessing of the entire building including each individual room. Father Paul together with a group of Sisters will enter the room and bless the occupant and the room with Holy Water sprinkled with the aspergillum, (Latin for sprinkler). The Priest will read a prayer from a small card praying that the occupant and room be blessed. He leaves the card in the room as a reminder that he was there. (Note: In Poland the Priest will go into every home where he is welcome, (by a signal that the door is half open), and Bless that home in likewise fashion).
The one key which is very evident is all the forgoing activity is one of sincere joy by the Sisters and thus passed to the residents and staff. The smile and happiness which one observes here all the time, regardless of the is evident or work and not only at a party or special event setting but every hour of day of week. It’s a signature attitude by the Sisters which relaxes and even erases one’s fret.
WRITERS PERSONAL COMMENTS:
IT’S ONE OF THE REASONS THAT ABOUT ONE YEAR AGO I MADE THE CHOICE FOR MY WIFE AND MYSELF TO BE RESIDENTS HERE AT SAINT JOSEPH’S SENIOR HOME IN WOODBRIDGE, NJ, WITH THE LITTLE SERVANT SISTERS OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION. THE DISPLAY OF DAILY SMILES, JOY AND CHEERFULNESS IS HONEST AND APPARENT IN MANY GENEROUS WAYS.
EVEN ALL THAT ASIDE, THERE EXISTS THE SIMPLE BUT IMPORTANT FACT THAT THIS HOUSE IS A TOTALLY CATHOLIC HOME. WHILE ATTENDANCE IS VOLUNTARY, I THINK IT BEHOOVES ONE, PARTICULARLY AT THIS TIME OF LIFE AND HEALTH NOT TO DECLINE THE OFFERS OF DAILY JOINT PRAYERS, AVAILABLE RECONCILIATION, EXPOSITION OF THE HOLY EUCHARIST AND DAILY HOLY MASS.
A SUGGESTION: IF YOU OR A LOVED ONE NEEDS DAILY CARE AND IF THE BURDEN HAS BECOME DIFFICULT AND DANGEROUS FOR YOU OR A LOVED ONE, THEN PLEASE COME HERE TO THE SAINT JOSEPH’S HOME AND FIND A PLACE OF PROFESSIONAL ATTENTION TO YOUR NEEDS IN AN ATMOSPHERE OF TOTAL JOY.