The Gift of the Elderly
On Tuesday, February 5, Sr. Patrice and Sr. Anastasia gave a presentation at the Boston University (BU) Catholic Center on “The Gift of the Elderly.” Students from the Catholic Center’s pastoral board invited the sisters from Somerville to give this presentation as a part of their “Catholics on Campus” program, which is every Tuesday. The Sisters were invited for Mass and a spaghetti supper, with the presentation following the meal.
The two Sisters arrived early to the student center, which is located in the heart of BU’s campus. The building is a brick row house, one of many associated with the campus, and it’s homey architecture made it even more inviting. The “Welcome” chalkboard on the sidewalk near the building’s front door identified it as the student center. Once inside the building, the Sisters met with an intern who works at the student center, and she kindly gave instructions to find the chapel on the top floor of the building. It was very small, only seating about 30 people. Mass began at 5:00 with a recitation of the Angelus; one of the students present was the lector. Fr. David Barnes, the chaplain for BU, celebrated Mass, and his homily was very relatable for a college student. Father also said a special prayer during the intercessions for the Little Sisters of the Poor. It was beautiful to see the reverence of the students and experience their community.
After Mass, the Sisters reunited with two young women who had come to our Jeanne Jugan Residence (JJR) in Somerville for the World Youth Day Weekend the week before. The two girls happily gave a brief tour for the sisters before they all headed down to the ground floor for their spaghetti supper. During supper, the Sisters were able to meet several more students who frequent the Catholic Center as well as some of the University’s FOCUS missionaries. Some of the JJR Residents, (from the 3rd floor infirmary), baked chocolate chip and sugar cookies for the Sisters to bring with them. The students were deeply touched to know that the Residents had baked for them, and Fr. Barnes even gave a dispensation for the students who had already begun a Lenten fast from sweets! Everyone very obviously enjoyed each other’s company and the chance to share a meal together.
At 6:30 p.m., the Sisters and some students headed upstairs to the 1st floor to set up for the presentation, which began around 6:45 p.m. The Sisters were asked to speak about the Little Sisters of the Poor and their work with the elderly, about a religious vocation, and about community life. About 25 to 30 students were present when the PowerPoint began, with several more coming in and out throughout the talk. Sr. Patrice began by introducing herself and giving a short testimony about her calling to become a Little Sister. Afterwards, the two Sisters explained the beginnings of the congregation and introduced St. Jeanne Jugan. A part of the presentation included short videos of four Residents and our chaplain introducing themselves, explaining their families, or giving advice to young people. It was very moving for everyone to hear the simple wisdom, (and sweet humor), of our Residents.
After the videos of the Residents, the Sisters continued the presentation by explaining how they care for the elderly, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. They stressed the importance of community life in accomplishing and living out our apostolate to the aged poor. The presentation ended with an invitation for the students to visit our home and meet the residents that they had seen in the videos and pictures throughout the talk. A brief time for questions followed the presentation, with some of the students asking about our ministry of watching with the dying or about taking care of their own aging parents or grandparents. Sr. Patrice and Sr. Anastasia brought with them some information about the Little Sisters, the Spring into Service program, and St. Jeanne Jugan, which the students very eagerly looked through. The students were also able to leave their contact information if they were interested in volunteering or discerning with the Little Sisters.
While our time with the students was rather brief—only a few hours really—it was absolutely rejuvenating. The Lord is very clearly stirring the hearts of many of these young people, some of whom have met us at other homes throughout the country. Already some of the young women were planning a visit to Jeanne Jugan Residence. Please pray that our time with these young people will bear much fruit, and pray especially for the success of their student retreat being held February 15-17. May God continue to bless the efforts of the Catholic Student Center at Boston University!