Keeping Christmas special for kids from one to 90-plus

By Dave Jolivet
Anchor Editor

FAIRHAVEN, Mass. — There’s a line in the lyrics of the Christmas standard, “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire),” that accurately sums up the warmth and the joy the Christmas season brings: “And so I’m offering this simple phrase to kids from one to 92: Though it’s been said many times, many ways, Merry Christmas to you.”

The only correction would be extending the kids’ age well past 92.

A shining example of helping “make the season bright,” lies in the five nursing facilities in the Diocese of Fall River that are part of the Diocesan Health Facilities: Our Lady’s Haven in Fairhaven; Catholic Memorial Home in Fall River; Sacred Heart Home in New Bedford; Madonna Manor in North Attleboro; and Marian Manor in Taunton.

One simply needs to stroll through the halls of any of these facilities at this time of year to find residents and staff exuding Christmas spirit, and decorations throughout as a constant reminder of the joy of the birth of Baby Jesus.

Christmas has a way of bringing out the child in everyone who believes in the magnitude and hope of Christmas — the time when God fulfilled His promise to His people to send a Savior for the Salvation of all.

It’s not only the residents, families and staffs who provide Christmas cheer. Each year dozens of area schools, ministries and organizations make sure the people being cared for in the nursing facilities are not forgotten, often sending gifts, cards, or showing up in person to carol and make merry.

There’s a litany of events taking place at each of the homes.

At Our Lady’s Haven in Fairhaven, events that have taken place or will, include: a Fairhaven Holiday Stroll which included pictures with Santa, and staples of the season — cookies and hot chocolate; being serenaded by carolers and dancers; food platters from the Fairhaven Fire and Police departments; a Christmas breakfast; a children’s Christmas party with Santa; and a residents’ Christmas party.

Not to forget the true reason for the season, exposition of the Blessed Sacrament takes place daily in the chapel Monday through Friday during Advent complemented by a Nativity scene there throughout the season.

Our Lady’s Haven also takes part in an “Adopt a Resident,” program where local groups donate gifts and the staff fill a stocking for each resident.

Walking into Catholic Memorial Home in Fall River, everyone is greeted by an outdoor crèche at the main entrance. While the Christ Child is yet to be placed in the scene, it’s a wonderful reminder of why the season is celebrated and loved.

For the second year in a row, the home and its residents entered a tree in the city’s Festival of Trees at Government Center. The theme this year played off the aforementioned “Christmas Song” reference of kids from one to 92. The residents made ornaments with frames of a picture of themselves as a child and now. The trees will be judged tomorrow with a special event planned. 

Catholic Memorial Home also took part in Fall River’s annual Children’s Parade with staff “elves,” and the residents’ bus riding down Main Street handing our candy and Christmas spirit.

As with the other homes, CMH is also the beneficiary of visitors who come to carol, play BINGO and distribute gifts and cards.

St. Thomas More Parish in Somerset adds to the spirit of the season with its “Giving Tree,” providing a gift for all residents.

Of course the chapel is home to daily Mass, keeping the focus on the Savior.

Sacred Heart Home in New Bedford has a twofold celebration: its 100th anniversary and Christmas.

A spirited Christmas tree greets all in the lobby. The tree includes 100 ornaments all handmade by residents and staff and using purple and gold as those colors signify a centennial anniversary.

The greater New Bedford area takes great interest in the Sacred Heart Home at Christmas time, with groups providing music, treats, and donations of time and talents.

The home celebrates its residents and employees as a family with decorations, music and Mass.

“Christmas time at Sacred Heart Home becomes a very joyous time,” said Jennifer Davis, home administrator. “We are eternally grateful for all those who join our Sacred Heart Home family at this time of year to make our residents feel special and loved” and helps “our residents experience the happiness the celebration of Jesus’ birth brings.”

This year the home’s Pastoral Care Department planned a “Remembrance Tree,” for the Advent and Christmas seasons. The tree will be adorned with remembrance boxes, a small wrapped gift. One box is for remembering the living — individuals, family members, or friends and the other is for remembering those who have passed.

Madonna Manor in North Attleboro is a beehive of activity during this cheerful season.

An Advent wreath is one of the focal points at the facility to remind all of the season’s reason.

One of the highlights for many of the residents is a trip aboard the home’s van to visit the Festival of Lights at the nearby National Shrine of Our Lady of La Salette.

As is the norm with the homes, many groups and individuals provide gifts to the residents. The North Attleboro Veterans’ Agency is remembering the home’s veterans with a special gift for them.

St. Mary’s-Sacred Heart School in the town will be presenting a Christmas pageant.

This year the staff is enjoying its second annual Nursing Unit Christmas decorating contest, whereby the residents tour the various units and vote for their favorite floor. The unit that emerges as the champion will be treated to pizza for each shift.

Lucy Sousa’s husband has been a Madonna Manor resident for six years. “Christmas means everything at Madonna Manor,” she said. “The staff knows the true meaning of Christmas and truly cares for all the residents and their families as well.”

Charge nurse Christine Macho told The Anchor, “I have worked at Madonna Manor for a long time and I always request to work on Christmas. Christmas Day begins when I arrive to work and everyone greets each other and the residents with Merry Christmas wishes.

“It is truly a joyous day for all of us. We are one happy, joyous family. There is a lot of hugging among all of us, our residents and visitors. Everyone is engulfed in joy as one family.”

Mildred Ross, a resident and president of the Resident Council said, “The Christmas season begins at Madonna Manor with our wonderful Christmas Fair. The whole place is beautifully decorated. Throughout the season we all anticipate the coming of Christ on His Birthday. 

“We celebrate all month long with choral groups, caroling, decorating contests, the Nativity scene is in the chapel and in the lobby, awaiting the return of the ‘baby’ on Christmas Day. The Christmas meal for us and our families is always delicious and festive.”

Christmas celebrations at Marian Manor in Taunton kicked off on December 2 with the city’s “Lights On” festivities when musician Mike Higgins performed, enhancing the delicious cookies and hot chocolate.

Staff from the home took part in the city’s Taunton parade.

One van trip to La Salette wasn’t enough. Three excursions were made for residents to experience the always-breathtaking Festival of Lights there.

Carols were in the air when local Girl Scouts joined voices to entertain the Marian Manor residents and staff.

In a different twist to a sleigh and reindeer, Brewster Ambulance brought Santa in to visit with the residents. Later this month the Youth Group from St. Anthony’s Parish in Taunton will visit with residents, spreading Christmas cheer, spirit and joy.

Shortly before Christmas Day the residents, then the staff will enjoy a festive Christmas party/luncheon.

“And so I’m offering this simple phrase to kids from one to 92: Though it’s been said many times, many ways, Merry Christmas to you.”

© 2020 The Anchor  †  887 Highland Avenue  †  Fall River, Massachusetts 02720