Catholic San Francisco


(Christina Gray/Catholic San Francisco)

House superior Sister Catherine Maree Rea, CSN, and Sister Teresa Grant, CSN, are all smiles at a 50th anniversary luncheon for the Nazareth House Auxiliary Sept. 21.

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Celebrating 50 years of the ‘human touch’ at Nazareth House
September 26th, 2016
By Christina Gray

It is said that it’s love that makes a house a home, and that’s what the volunteers of Nazareth House have helped furnish it with for 50 years.

On Sept. 21, the nonprofit Catholic retirement home in San Rafael owned and operated by the Sisters of Nazareth toasted its auxiliary for bringing five decades of “sunshine” to its residents.

“These wonderful women and men offer a great benefit to our residents, both materially and spiritually,” Sister Catherine Rea, superior, said during an anniversary luncheon in the facility’s event center. The anniversary party doubled as a farewell to Sister Catherine who moves to the Nazareth House in San Diego in October after six years in San Rafael.

The aim of the Sisters of Nazareth is to provide for the physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual needs of Nazareth House’s 125 or so senior residents, which include some married couples, mostly widows and widowers and currently about 11 retired priests.

The six sisters in residence at Nazareth House have their hands full with direct care and spiritual support to residents including coordination of the religious services and activities (Nazareth House has a priest), said Claire Villa, a 30-plus year member of the auxiliary and past president.

She said volunteers support them by offering an added “human touch” that can mean so much to the daily lives of seniors who can feel isolated. They may linger for a bit of idle conversation after delivering resident mail or at the counter of the gift shop. They answer telephones and direct visitors and deliver get well, birthday and sympathy greetings they call “sunshine” to residents. They also organize birthday parties, bingo games, stitchery and crafts, continental breakfasts and other activities. The men haul in the Christmas tree and decorations and provide transportation to outside medical appointments.

Villa said the first and foremost reason she joined the auxiliary was “to do his work and be his hands whenever and wherever possible.”

Nazareth House was built in 1962 on a then-isolated hill in Terra Linda, a subdivision of San Rafael. Four years later the auxiliary was born when two San Francisco women whose daughters became Sisters of Nazareth, organized a committee to help them in their care for the elderly.

Pola Martino, 85, has been a volunteer for 47 of the auxiliary’s 50 years. She began supervising the “Nazarettes,” a group of local girls between the ages of 12 and 14 who volunteered with the nursing staff in the infirmary at the time.

“I don’t know why I did it, I had five kids at the time,” she said with a smile. She has just “kept going,” since then, serving as past president and treasurer of the auxiliary. These days she and her husband host a weekly bocce ball game for residents and staff.

The auxiliary’s boutiques and bake sales, gift shop proceeds and other fundraising activities enable the sisters to do these “extra little things” not included in an operating budget, according to Sister Catherine – though last year they went all out and raised the money for a beautiful new organ for Nazareth House’s in-house chapel.

But Villa says the auxiliary’s fundraising is a “secondary thing” to the sisters.

“They have always stressed to us that the money is icing on the cake,” she said. “What they tell us they appreciate most is the personal contact with residents so vital to their well-being.”

From September 29, 2016 issue of Catholic San Francisco.


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