It would seem that just yesterday we were shouting Happy New Year 2021 and here we are again, already sending Christmas wishes. The past year, as the year before, brought with it unique and new challenges for our staff and residents to overcome. So it is with great hope we ready ourselves to celebrate one of the most holy days in our liturgical calendar and honor the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
In early December the halls take on a noticeable change from Autumn themes to scenes of ornaments, lights, and decorated trees. Of all these decorations though, the most important remains the nativities on display in our chapels. The managers lay empty, as do our hearts, in anxious anticipation of the Baby Jesus’ arrival.
On December 16th we gathered all staff and sisters to celebrate Christmas with a luncheon.
This party looked a little different than our usual celebrations because of virus guidelines, but we had a great time regardless. The food was delicious, desserts were sweet, and laughs were plentiful. We even had a surprise guest, Joshua (3-year-old son of Esperanta, CNA), who took the pressure off of Sr. Elizabeth by calling out the numbers for the raffle. Joshua read the numbers with ease and wished everyone an enthusiastic “Merry Christmas!” after every win. We are so grateful to have all been together for the holidays this year. Below are the wishes that our Mother Dorota (Superior of The Little Servant Sisters in America) read on behalf of the Sisters:
“Our dear Employees,
I would rather call you: our dear Home Workers. You, together with our Chaplain and Sisters, make this house a home – Saint Joseph’s Senior Home. Therefore, I would like to thank every one of you from the bottom of my heart. Your daily dedication to your duties and compassion and care toward our residents is known to God. It is He, our Loving and Merciful Father, who gives you the grace and strength in all seasons – in sunshine, rain, snow, and even the pandemic with masks and restrictions! Therefore you keep going in the spirit of Psalm, 119: Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
May Mary and Joseph in the joyful mystery of the birth of Jesus, the Son of God, inspire you all as you work and also as you celebrate His birthday!
Merry Christmas, and a Happy and Healthy New Year! God bless us all!”
As the weather outside grew colder the love and Christmas spirit of everyone at St. Joseph’s was as warming as any fireplace could ever be. The joyful sounds of residents and staff joining together and singing Christmas carols and hymns seemed to fill every corner. The beautiful decorations and twinkling lights were a sight to behold. The Christmas season was indeed in full swing and was a delight for all the senses.
Tuesday, December 21, the residents celebrated Christmas and December birthdays with a big, festive party. They dressed up in holiday gear, sang Christmas carols, and ate delicious snacks and sweets. During the Christmas party in the Assisted Living Sr. Leila narrated a small Christmas play. Anna, a resident, was privileged to place the Baby Jesus into the crib. Joyfully singing Christmas carols, the residents welcomed and honored the newborn Jesus.
We were all surprised by the best guest of all, Santa Claus!
Santa went to all the residents to wish them a “Merry Christmas!” and listen to their Christmas wish lists. All of our residents have been very good this year, so we know they will get everything they asked for this Christmas! In addition to the religious aspect, residents received gifts from our benefactors to whom we are very thankful!
The winners for our two Christmas raffles were handpicked by two of our residents, Estelle and Elinore. David Gomolka, the nephew of Henrietta, was the lucky winner of the handmade by RN Mary Ellen, knitted Mr. and Mrs. Claus. The winner of the luxurious basket of amazing goodies is Linda Ferreira, one of our overnight CNAs. We were glad that the winners were able to enjoy their wonderful prizes for Christmas and the holiday season. Thank you so much to all of those that generously participated in the raffle!
During the Christmas season, we received many gifts, greeting cards from many benefactors – it is difficult to name all of them, but e.g. Lowell Foods, Polish & Slavic Federal Credit Union, Voices for Seniors organization, Our Lady of Czestochowa parish from South Plainfield, Polish Supplementary School of Julian Ursyn Niemcewicz at St. Bernard of Clairvaux and St. Stanislaw Kostka Parish in Plainfield, Polish CCD program at St. John Paul II Parish in Perth Amboy, Parish Good Shepherd in Hopelawn.
Even a group of young girls wanted to share the good with our residents and made homemade gingerbread Christmas trees and handmade Christmas cards to our residents.
With the Christmas concert, a longtime friend of the house – Mr. Andy Hladek came to us and even our Sister MaryAnn played a concerto on the violin.
As was done in 2020, everyone took special care to follow Covid-19 guidelines and all were pleased to be able to safely share a moment and welcome the infant Jesus before he was placed in the nativity on Christmas Eve.
The kitchen staff worked tirelessly to prepare a hearty Christmas Eve meal known as “Wigilia”. The traditional feast is a compilation of about twelve (12) dishes that vary in their preparation depending on the region of Poland from which one hails. While not all dishes were made, residents and staff did have a delightful sampling of some of the more familiar menu items like pierogi, stuffed cabbage, and “Nalesniki”, a type of pancake.
Another Polish custom celebrated at Wigilia was sharing of the Oplatek or Christmas wafer. The breaking of the Christmas wafer is a custom that began in Poland in the 10th century and is practiced by people of Polish ancestry around the world. It is considered one of the most ancient and beloved of Polish traditions. A large wafer, prepared exactly the same as the altar bread that becomes the Eucharist during Mass, is broken and a piece is given to each person. As each person receives their piece blessings, prayers, and good wishes are exchanged.
Pasterka is the midnight mass that takes place after dinner. This year we were happy to welcome the arrival of the baby Jesus and take part in this celebration with residents who were able to attend.
Shortly after finishing our Christmas celebrations it was time to party again and ring in the New Year! The residents enjoyed a party complete with music, noisemakers and funny hats. We again were pleased to have a midnight mass with residents who could attend and say goodbye to the old year with Jesus and welcome in the new with Him as well.
House Blessing 2022 – Kolęda
When Christ took flesh through the Blessed Virgin Mary, He made his home with us. Let us now pray that He will enter our St. Joseph’s Senior Home and bless it with his presence. May He always be here with us, our Residents, our Employees, our families, friends, and benefactors. May He share in our joys, comfort us in our sorrows, and protect us from any danger.
The following letter we received from Adele, one of our residents…
We have just enjoyed the beautiful Christmas with the birth of Baby Jesus. This was followed by Mary, Mother of God and Epiphany of our Lord. How fortunate I was to be a part of this. The Sisters were responsible for the many gifts we received. The special lunch on New Year’s Day with shrimp!
Then with BBQ Ribs! Also, we were treated with a toast during the meal. All of this could not have taken place without the love and dedication of all the Sisters and helped by the Aids. This is but a small effort to thank you for the Beautiful Season. I wish everyone a Healthy, Happy New Year filled with Peace! Love & Prayers.
And so it is with this same spirit of gratitude and hope we at St. Joseph’s send these wishes to all of you…
May the Lord bless you and keep you!
May the Lord let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you!
May the Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace!
Have a Blessed 2022 Year!