“As we begin a new liturgical year today, we have come rejoicing to this chapel to begin our celebration of the holy season of Advent. And I have come with joy here to Saint Anne’s to begin my personal Advent journey with you,” so spoke Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades in his homily to residents of Saint Anne Communities, Fort Wayne, on Sunday, Nov. 27.
Joy fit the theme of the day, as residents, many conveyed to the chapel via wheelchair by family members, caregivers, or their faithful chaplain Father Jack Overmyer, came together to celebrate the first Sunday of Advent. Father Overmyer and retired priest and Saint Anne resident Father Adam Schmitt — one of the oldest priests in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend — concelebrated Mass. Bishop Rhoades greeted those present, wishing them a happy new year, as the Church began the new liturgical year on the day. He also promised his continued prayers for the residents throughout the Advent season.
In his homily for the day, he focused on joy and its connection to the season of Advent; “a season of joyful expectation of the coming of the Lord,” he stated.
That joy, he continued, differs from that of Christmas as it is “a quiet joy because it is a time of waiting, a time of preparation for the great joy of Christmas.”
“Joy arises in our hearts because a Savior has been given to us, who, as the angel said to the shepherds, is Christ and Lord. Because God in person has come to save us, we have hope. We live in hope. Advent is a great season of hope; hope in salvation because God so loved the world that He sent His only Son to save us. We have hope even in the midst of sadness, pain, and suffering, because we know that God is always with us. He will never abandon us. He is always by our side with His love and grace, giving us peace. He consoles us in our sorrows. So, we can always live in hope!”
He then spoke about Advent anticipating not the first coming of Christ, but rather looking toward the second coming at the end of time. Even the end of the world, Bishop Rhoades explained, “is a reason for hope – hope of the new heavens and a new earth.” He reminded his listeners to prepare their hearts for that day, saying that the sacraments, the Eucharist in particular, help the faithful to do this.
“Let us all try to focus this Advent on our interior preparation for the coming of the Lord, striving to grow in holiness, so that when the Lord comes, we will be ready.” Living at Saint Anne Communities offers opportunities for daily Mass, visits to the Blessed Sacrament, and recitation of the rosary for the residents to grow in their faith life in their golden years.
During Communion, Bishop Rhoades and Father Overmyer graciously brought the Eucharist to the residents and family members in attendance. Bishop Rhoades greeted each of the residents after Mass with a handshake and a cheerful smile, chatting with them and sharing memories of those he had met on previous visits.
With Saint Anne’s chief operating officer on maternity leave, temporary administrator Bill Langschier currently oversees the home. He has been working at Saint Anne Communities off and on for four years, though he served as a nursing home administrator for roughly 40 years. Of Saint Anne’s, he said, “I love it. I truly love it. And for me, it’s a closer connection to God, because where I’m working is in the Catholic Church and amongst a lot of residents who are spending their last days here. So, what a blessing for me.”
Langschier believed that the residents were “so appreciative and they feel so good inside that here is the bishop, taking time out of the whole diocese to spend Advent with them, the first Sunday of Advent.”
Resident Joanie Watson, originally from Phillipsburg, New Jersey, has lived at Saint Anne for only a short time. She shared how her father had converted to Catholicism many years ago in order to marry her mother, a devout Catholic. Watson recalled her happy upbringing, with “wonderful parents, a beautiful mother,” and an older brother who was very popular in high school.
When asked how she felt about the bishop’s visit to the home, she commented, “I feel very honored.”
Ninety-five-year-old Rita Walters enjoys her life at Saint Anne Communities. She likes it so well, in fact, that she informed Bishop Rhoades that she wanted to have her funeral there. Walters appreciated his visit to the retirement home, saying, “That’s great that he comes. That’s where they all belong, to each parish, so we can see the bishop.”
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