The holiday season marks a time for loved ones to gather in community and celebration. However, unfortunately for some, the holidays can bring about a sense of loneliness and isolation. One incredibly vulnerable population are the senior citizens in nursing homes.
Saint Peter’s students are well-versed in living as “people for and with others.” This is a key value of a Jesuit education in which students are taught to embrace the importance of standing with the marginalized or those in need.
The Saint Peter’s community identified a need to support area senior citizens this holiday season and the students of the University quickly rose to the challenge.
Students in Mary Anne Gallagher-Landi’s math class often discuss the Ignatian values and how they are relevant in the students’ lives. Each student then writes a letter to a nursing home resident about their personal stories to offer hope and inspiration. In the past the letters were dropped off, but this year several of the students brought the letters in-person to Peace Care Saint Joseph’s Nursing Home and led a holiday craft project.
“I am always proud of my students, but I was incredibly proud to see the poise, grace and generosity of spirit our students exhibited at Saint Joseph’s,” said Professor Gallagher-Landi. “They are beautiful examples of men and women for and with others.”
According to one of the residents of the nursing home, the Saint Peter’s students made the residents’ day. “For me, personally, it brought back memories of my visits to nursing homes over the years! Now that I’m a resident in a nursing facility myself I’m doubly grateful for the time and effort put into the visits from Saint Peter’s,” she explained.
According to Professor Gallagher-Landi, “It is important for my students to experience the Ignatian values in action in my course and writing letters for the Peace Care Saint Joseph nursing home is a way to do so, and to make a special connection with members of our Jersey City community – to be people for and with others. I spend time in class discussing Ignatian values with my students because it is an important part of their Jesuit education, with a focus on the whole person, not solely on academic growth. This semester we discussed being people for and with others, and self reflection – examining our lives and gaining insight about ourselves.”
Glamour Gals and Guys
Another campus program that gives back to seniors in the community is Glamour Gals and Guys. The program was established in 2015 by the Office of Campus Ministry at Saint Peter’s University and it is made up of Saint Peter’s students who give manicures to senior citizens at local senior homes.
This holiday season the Office of Campus Ministry also invited the University community to participate in the My Dear Friend campaign, a program in which volunteers write holiday cards to local senior citizens living in care in order to brighten their day.
The Glamour Gals and Guys program was recently featured in an article in the Saint Peter’s Tribune. In the article, Erich Sekel, associate director of campus ministry, shared “Since my arrival in 2009, Saint Peter’s has consistently developed enduring community service programs [such as Glamour Gals and Guys], emphasizing their sustainability over individual events. Half of what we do is just the fact that we show up. If you show up you’re telling somebody that they matter.”
Joy Through Music
As a member of the Office of Campus Ministry, University Director of Music Joseph Hill Jr. was inspired by the work the office does for the community through the University’s Campus Kitchen and the Food Pantry and Clothes Closet. “I began to think that if the University is working to feed and clothe community members, it could also bring joy to them through music,” he explained.
He gathered a group of approximately 20 students who are members of the Aidan C. McMullen Chorale as well as volunteer students from the Office of Campus Ministry. The group visited Alaris Health in Jersey City to sing Christmas carols to the residents.
“The event was a great success and it was clear that many residents had not seen a live choir in some time as their faces lit up with the music,” Hill explained. “We hope to continue this tradition next year and build on the program to visit additional assisted living homes.”
Saint Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, shared that “love needs to express itself in deeds more than words.” The Saint Peter’s student volunteers are living that charge as they dedicate themselves to being good neighbors and companions to those in need such as the community’s senior population.