A Sept. 25 Catholic Standard (Washington, D.C.) article highlighted the partnership between CUA and Jeanne Jugan Residence, a nearby home for elderly residents. Students from CUA volunteer at the home four nights a week. Katie Reilly, a senior nursing major, was quoted in the article. See the article below.
For CUA Students, Visiting Elderly Neighbors is an Act of Faith and Love
From: Catholic Standard
Date: Sept. 25, 2012
Author: Maureen Boyle
Two years ago, Catholic University of America senior Katie Reilly's beloved grandmother passed away, and she started thinking about how to fill that huge void in her life. When the opportunity came up to help serve the frail elderly residents of the Little Sisters of the Poor's Jeanne Jugan Residence, Reilly not only saw a way to give back, but also jumped at the chance to gain many new "adoptive" grandparents.
"At first I didn't know what to expect, but now it always makes my week. They're so happy and always asking how I'm doing," said Reilly, a 21-year-old nursing major from Medford, N.J. "They teach you so much about life."
For several years, Catholic University students have been a vital part of the volunteer program at the Jeanne Jugan Residence, helping out in a variety of ways, but most especially four nights a week when CUA students cross Harewood Road and help serve dinner to the residents. Reilly is one of four service leaders from CUA. Every Tuesday evening, along with three or four fellow students, she assists the sisters and cafeteria staff in the residence's two main dining rooms.
After making sure the residents get their dinners, desserts and beverages, the students sit, chat and simply spend time with the older folks who eagerly look forward to their time together.
"Their service is out of the world. The boys and girls are so very conscientious. They come in and go right to the tables and wait on us," said Antoinette Cienski, an elderly resident for the past five years. "They stay and talk. And we enjoy seeing them."
Sister Celestine Meade, a Little Sister of the Poor and the administrator of the Jeanne Jugan Residence, said Reilly and her fellow CUA volunteers are essential to the sisters' mission of loving care for the frail elderly, which the nuns have carried out in Washington, D.C. since 1871. The Catholic University of America and the Little Sisters of the Poor have been neighbors for the past 30 years. In 1982, the sisters moved from their downtown Washington to their current location at 4200 Harewood Road, Northeast.
In addition to their service at the dinner hour, the CUA students are frequent visitors, helping out with bingo games and hosting the annual fall dance for the residents. Later this month, Reilly is helping launch an "Adopt a Grandparent Program," in which a CUA student will be matched up one on one with an elderly resident for regular visits and outings.
"They are the extension of the hands of our mother foundress (Jeanne Jugan). They bring such joy and enthusiasm to our residents, who think of them as their own grandchildren. In turn, the students show them the love, concern and respect they have for the elderly," Sister Celestine said.
Of Reilly, Sister Celestine said, "She always has a nice smile and is a joy to the residents. She has an enthusiasm that is contagious."
Reilly said she sees her volunteer efforts as a way of living out her Catholic faith. "Service is one of the most important parts about being Catholic," said Reilly, adding that it is in giving she has received. "They have so much love and say the nicest things."
As she prepares for a career in nursing, Reilly said the example of the Little Sisters of the Poor has influenced her as well, citing the lessons she will carry on long after her CUA graduation.
"I've been so lucky to be able to see firsthand their patience and the care they give with dignity, no matter how old (the residents are)," she said.