“Think of how we can go to others, to those in difficulty and with problems — let us think of the sick, of so many problems — to bring a little unction, peace, joy. This is the joy of the Christian. Agreed? … Pray, give thanks and help others.” Though elderly themselves, many of our Residents incarnate these words of Pope Francis. During this Christmas season when, rightfully, they could sit back and enjoy the many gestures of kindness of which they are the object, the elderly themselves keep going out to others. Here are but a few examples of how our Residents at Jeanne Jugan Residence in Washington, D.C. edify us each day…
Irene Regan is a Resident in the assisted living unit and a regular volunteer at the National Shrine of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. Her days as a volunteer beginning quite early, as she walks down the street from the home to help open the Shrine at 6:00 a.m. Irene was on duty on Christmas day, starting at 6:00 as usual. At 11:00 a.m. she joined the legion of volunteers on hand to serve Christmas dinner to the poor, elderly and homeless during the Shrine’s annual Christmas dinner.
Skipping Christmas dinner here at Jeanne Jugan Residence, Irene helped by serving beverages to a record number of persons of varying ages and backgrounds, returning home tired but happy around 4:00 p.m. “It’s something I really like to do,” Irene remarked. “I really enjoy it; it makes me feel very much wanted. It’s wonderful.”
Irene is not the only Resident to volunteer at the National Shrine. Msgr. Joaquin Bazan, a “retired” priest of the archdiocese of Washington, treks down to the Shrine every Saturday to minister to the faithful in the confessional. Msgr. Bazan reported that the weekend before Christmas he heard over 100 confessions! Without breaking the seal of confession Monseigneur related that his most memorable confession at the Shrine was someone who had not been to the sacrament in 80 years! “I always give one Hail Mary as a penance,” he related, “but some people don’t even know the Hail Mary anymore. When that happens I say it with them.” Asked why he spends so much time hearing confessions at his age, Msgr. Bazan shrugged, “I’m a priest.”
While Irene Regan and Msgr. Joaquin Bazan volunteer at the National Shrine, Anne Sparich, a lay Carmelite who is well into her 90’s, works in our chapel at Jeanne Jugan Residence. An experienced sacristan, Anne seconds the Little Sister responsible for the chapel, looking after the sacred vessels, chapel linens and vestments, and setting up for daily Mass and other chapel services.
Each of these Residents, and many others, find fulfillment in rendering service to God and others. During this Christmas season we thank all of our elderly Simeons and Annas, and thank God for them!
“Humble people, full of hope in the goodness of God, are those who welcome Jesus and recognize him. And so the Holy Spirit enlightened the shepherds of Bethlehem, who hastened to the grotto and adored the Child. Then the Spirit led the elderly and humble couple Simeon and Anna into the temple of Jerusalem, and they recognized in Jesus the Messiah. ‘My eyes have seen your salvation,’ Simeon exclaimed, ‘the salvation prepared by God in the sight of all peoples, (Lk 2:30).”