Did you know that for many, many years a small group of parishioners has been, on our behalf, visiting and providing a weekly communal prayer gathering for Catholics living in Cranford senior care facilities? And now, because of the decreased physical mobility that often comes with aging, these members of the Legion of Mary are asking for volunteers to assist them in this ministry which means so much to the seniors they serve.
I was fortunate to accompany one of the Legion members, Peg Dooley, on two of these weekly visits. It took very little of my time. I picked Peg up at 9:45 AM and we were back home by before noon and I was blessed by the very warm, enriching experience. Let me tell you about it, hoping that you too, will be moved to volunteer.
As Peg got into my car on the morning of my first visit, I saw that she had a tote bag of needed materials: rosaries, prayer leader “cheat sheets” and a Blessed Mother statue. We chatted as we made our way to the Atria and, upon arriving, Peg signed us in and proceeded to a 20’x20’ room which becomes our prayer room. As I placed rosaries on the large table, one pair in front of each of the 16 chairs, Peg and the health aides brought the seniors into the room. The seniors seemed happy to come and I soon came to realize why. After a pleasant greeting of the assembled seniors, Peg led them in praying the rosary. I prayed along with them, making eye contact with each person, moving my glance from one person to the next. Many seemed to “wake up” when my eyes met theirs – seeming to want someone to connect with him/her. And I came to realize that what some of us would call monotonous, the repetition of the Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be, is for them an opportunity to speak something familiar that was learned in childhood and that has accompanied them on their long journeys through life. There was nothing mundane about the prayer of these men and women who wait and wonder about their present and their future. Each seemed happy that we were there. And the words “blessed are thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb” took on a whole new meaning for me as I gazed into the eyes of each of the women there, many of whom are mothers.
Afterward I talked with a couple of the seniors while Peg and the aides took the others back to the activity room. Some wanted to stay and talk, just happy that someone was interested in talking and listening to them.
I am happy that I was made aware of the Legion of Mary’s need for a ride and companion. It was a good experience from beginning to end. Definitely worth many repeat visits! I felt that I was privileged to chat with Peg in the car, to watch her interact with the seniors and the aides, to pray with Peg and the seniors and, perhaps, most appreciated by me: my chance to connect with the beautiful seniors and giving them an opportunity to know that I and all of us at St. Michael’s want to be with them.
So, if you can drive and have time to visit with these seniors in the Atria, Cranford Park and Cranford Health care facilities, please contact the parish center (908-276-5779 or firstname.lastname@example.org). Our hope is to create a list of drivers/companions who can help our Legion of Mary continue this ministry to the Catholics in our Cranford senior facilities.