February 24, 2016 // Local

Welcoming God in their midst

Chaplain Father Grabner honors the dignity of each person

Jennifer Miller
Holy Cross Father Kenneth Grabner, chaplain at Dujarie House at Holy Cross Villages at Notre Dame, talks with a staff member.

By Jennifer Miller

NOTRE DAME —At Dujarie House at Holy Cross Villages, the dignity of each person and love of God is known and felt. From the first step through the wheelchair accessible door, each person is greeted with a smile and welcome. The air smells fresh and décor appears beautiful and festive for each appropriate holiday. Small touches of historical pictures of Holy Cross brothers, sisters and priests offer a reminder of the legacy and love practiced there. Most of all, a sense of peace, respect and care permeate the chapel.

Holy Cross Father Kenneth Grabner, chaplain there, sets this wonderful example, in harmony with the prayerful community members of the Dujarie House, by just walking into the chapel. Without anyone saying a word, God’s presence is felt there.

Looking around the simple and beautiful stained-glass filled, modern chapel, there are typically 30 or more people at daily Mass. Everyone sits throughout the liturgy, in solidarity with those who cannot move on their own. Some are in wheelchairs, some are with great physical limitations with their loving spouse at their side caring for them throughout Mass; some there are religious brothers and priests, sisters and lay; there are the faithful who can walk from the independent living, the villas, and some who have to allow others to help them to move. Together they offer a beautiful liturgy. The invisible God is daily made visible in the midst of their gathering.

In his homilies, Father Grabner speaks clearly to each person where they are, whatever their physical or mental capabilities and offers them a mission of prayer and living the Christian life that is often not spoken of for seniors. American culture often equates one’s work or output with worth, but in Catholicism one’s being is of greater importance.

Father Grabner highlights that and offers the senior community at Dujarie House that jewel, their ripening and deepening of the spiritual life at this critical time of their life. He speaks of God, like he actually knows and talks to God. Father Grabner has a gift for sharing complex theological truths in simple and readily accessible ways, all stated with beautiful truth and love. And the fruits are clearly felt.

From the kitchen staff to the environmental services and maintenance workers, it is noticeable how everyone is friendly and respectful.

Father Grabner explains, “We all work together. Everybody here is responsible. Everybody contributes for the health of our clients.”

The Catholic understanding of embodiment is practiced. “We offer that spiritual healing, a part of the human well being,” he says. “The spiritual life is a part of the recovery of health.”

As chaplain, he works across the buildings serving his fellow seniors “wherever they are, giving them whatever they are able to receive. We respond to where they are.” This acceptance and presence is important at Holy Cross Village.

Father Grabner notes, “Nothing is forced. We offer the sacraments to those who wish. I say, ‘God, this is Your work and allow myself to be the conduit.’”

The priests offer and celebrate Mass twice a day, everyday as well as broadcasting it on the house television. There are spiritual discussion groups, Lenten series, Anointing of the Sick and the sacraments offered.

Father Grabner also recommends a lengthy period of silence daily to listen to God, as well as the sacraments, especially the Eucharist. “We have this built into us, the need for silence. It is human.”

“I am first for the sacraments; also, here to listen, offer spiritual healing and as a companion, to remind them of their importance. For they, we, have evolved towards this part of life,” Father Grabner says. He speaks so beautifully of acceptance of this senior stage of life, learning to let go, and to love that one listening to this wise, peace-filled chaplain realizes that he clearly practices it himself.

“God works (here).” Father Grabner says, clearly using the present tense. “I am so grateful.”


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