Celebrate Each Life

Sr. Christina M. Neumann

As we approach the National Sanctity of Human Life Day (January 18), I am reminded of the sacredness of the lives we encounter every day at St. Anne’s.  Although this national observance, first initiated by President Reagan, refers primarily to protecting the dignity of the unborn, I would like to extend it to us here.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Hearing of the sanctity of human life is a real reminder to me as a worker at St. Anne’s; it reminds me that each person I encounter is precious, is deserving of my time and utmost respect.  When I see someone coming to the front desk where I work, I need to take a look at how I approach them.  I need to see their life as sacred and put them above my personal agenda at the moment.

This January, as we observe “Celebration of Life Month,” there are different points on which we can examine our efforts.  What are we, as individuals, doing to promote respect for human dignity?  Along with promoting respect for the unborn by prayer, occasionally contacting legislators, and attending the city-wide Mass for Life on January 22, what am I doing in my daily life?  Am I treating each person I meet with love and respect?

Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta has some beautiful, inspiring words that I would like to share, which I think tie into this very well: “I believe in person to person. Every person is Christ for me, and since there is only one Jesus, that person is the one person in the world at that moment.”

Today, after working on this post, I have been more conscious of giving my utmost to each person, resident, visitor, or co-worker. What a difference it can make if we really take to heart Mother Teresa’s words! If we do that, we will sanctify each day in keeping with the “sanctity of human life.”

All in All…

By: Kathy Lieberg, Volunteer & Franciscan Associate

St. Anne Statue (2)

When I go to St. Anne’s and enter the door
I know that my time there will not be a bore.

The residents will greet me with a smile
so I take off my coat and stay for awhile.

There’s Brian, who always offers a hug
then, there’s Sr. Christina – as cute as a bug.

I walk to the Chapel and get ready for Mass
then, on Tuesdays, at 10 there’s Bible study class.

Some days I hang out with the card playing bunch
then join the sisters for a tasty lunch.

All in all, I have to say
going to St. Anne’s makes my day!

Today is National Poetry Break Day.

I’d like to share a poem I wrote in honor of today’s observance.

This day is set as “Poetry Break Day,” and that is nation-wide,
Whether in North Dakota, or Hawaii you abide.
Today’s a day to take a break and enjoy this form of writ,
Or why not try and compose a poem, if you’ve got the grit!

A poem can be a special way to tell some one you care,
Why not jot one down when you’ve got time to spare?
Reading poetry can surely be a way you can relax –
Wouldn’t you rather read a poem than file income tax?

Here at St. Anne’s, I wonder if folks will take the time
to stop their daily goings-on to enjoy a rhyme.

Waste not, want not! ~ National Cut Your Energy Costs Day – January 10

From time to time, I end up on the second and third floors here at St. Anne’s, doing an errand or filling in as a personal care aide. During these times, I have, on occasion, noticed energy being wasted; no one was around in a resident’s room, but the TV or CD player was on, or even a light was illuminating the vacant space. While some people are better than others at being conscientious about energy use, it wouldn’t hurt any of us to take a look at how we can cut energy costs on this day dedicated to that topic.

Publication1According to an article by the National Day Calender, it’s “often in the little things that you do” that can save a lot of money on your bill. Along with the financial benefit, we can also consider helping our environment and not wasting resources. Some tips, offered by this same site, include: weatherproofing your home, having energy-efficient windows, compact fluorescent light bulbs, and furnace, turning down thermostats, turning off lights when leaving a room, running dishwasher/washing machine only when fully loaded, lowering water heater temperature, taking shorter showers, unplugging unused appliances, and carpooling.

Examiner.com offers other helpful suggestions: turn off unused TVs, radios, and computers, close blinds/curtains in extreme weather, purchase energy-star rated appliances, turn down the refrigerator, don’t let the water run when brushing your teeth, fix leaky/dripping faucets and running toilets, bike or walk rather than driving,

According to energyefficiency.org, the leading cause of energy waste is winter heating and summer cooling. Another leading culprit is appliances, such as the refrigerator, freezers, dishwashers, clothes washer and dryers. So, whether it’s as simple as turning off your TV when you leave your room, or if you’re a homeowner considering purchasing a new appliance, we can all make choices that will cut down on energy use.

Give me a break?

By Sr. Christina M. Neumann

I haven’t written anything on “The Scoop” since last week since I’m out of town, enjoying some days off with our Sisters in Rugby, ND, where they serve in Little Flower Parish. In asking myself whether I should try and write something while I’m away, I thought of our residents (and many others) who never are afforded this luxury.

What about those who never get any time away, any break or any vacation? Most of us have people we know who fit this category; for me, it’s residents at St. Anne’s. Although they do not have regular employment, they also do not have any break in their routine. Most don’t travel and some rarely leave the building. I would like to share some thoughts on what we (people who are mobile) can do for those who are more isolated and unable to take a “break” from everyday life (which can get monotonous, especially for North Dakotans in January).

So, how can we help such people? At St. Anne’s, our activities staff make every effort to offer engaging, interesting programs to brighten up the humdrumness residents can experience. We can all step out, reach out, to put a smile on someone else’s face. I can stop by a lounge where someone is sitting, looking at the paper, say ‘hello,’ and visit with the person, showing I care.

If you have a home-bound (or long-term care resident) relative, friend, neighbor, etc., I’d also like to suggest some things you can do to brighten things for them. Why not pick up the phone and call someone you know is alone?   Or, how about sending a card to loved one who feels isolated? Reaching out in a simple way may be just the “break” from monotony that someone you know needs.

Another tool not to be overlooked in helping these people is to remember them in our prayers.

In preparing (mentally) for this reflection, the words of Matthew’s gospel (25:40) came to mind: “Whenever you did it for the least of my brothers, you did it for me.” In taking five minutes to reach out to someone in need, we are going beyond what our eyes can see, we are extending love and care to Christ Himself. Why not take a small “break” from the business of your life to give someone else a little lift?

Like St. Anne, today’s grandparents can be part of a ‘holy family.’

By Kathy Lieberg, grandmother and Franciscan associate at St. Anne’s Guest Home

After Christmas, we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family.  We can look at the Holy Family as not only Mary, Joseph and Jesus but also include St. Anne and St. Joachim, Mary’s parents.  Although they were not mentioned in scripture as being part of Jesus’ life, I’m sure they were very much a part of His life.  A Jewish family, including grandparents, aunt, uncles, and cousins was a very important entity then, as I’m sure it is now.St. Anne Statue (2)

In our world today grandparents can also be important in the lives of the grandchildren, especially with so many parents working and the grandparents helping with the children.  This gives grandparents a good chance to have a positive influence on the grandchildren in the ways of their faith.  By making sure they go to Mass every Sunday, and possibly every day grandparents can show the importance of Mass, the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist and obedience to what the church asks us to do.  This obedience can be shown as not just something we have to do, but a love of God and wanting to do as He wants us to do and to also attend Mass to thank and praise God for all He does for us.

We grandparents can also be prepared and honored to be present when grandchildren are baptized, celebrate first Penance, first Holy Communion, and Confirmation.  When the children see grandparents attend these events they will begin to realize the importance of their faith and the path to holiness.

As parents and grandparents our job is to help our children and grandchildren get to heaven.

In our homes we grandparents can have holy objects, such as statues, pictures and rosaries around so the children are exposed to them.  When out in public we can show how it is ok to pray in public such as when we are at a restaurant.
Finally, as grandparents, we can hopefully grow in our own holiness by being examples of holiness to those around us, especially our grandchildren.

“O Come, Let us adore Him” with the Christmas Crèche

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Pictured here is a 65 year-old nativity scene, or crèche, which Sr. Elaine Marie, bookkeeper at St. Anne’s received for a Christmas gift at nine years of age.  As she grew up, she and her parents would set it up on their farmstead each year.  More figures, such as a deer, Santa, some of the angels, and, of course a dog, where added to the original set over the years.  Even after Sr. Elaine entered Religious Life in the late 1950s, her parents continued to put up the set at Christmastime.  When they moved to live and work at St. Anne’s some years later, they brought it with them; her mom continued setting it up in her apartment here.  Today, this crèche sets on top of a file cabinet in the main office here at St. Anne’s, where staff can be reminded of the miracle of the first Christmas.

Sr. Elaine's mother set up the scene in her room.
Sr. Elaine’s mother set up the scene in her room.

So, this is the history of one particular, special, nativity scene; but what is the history of the crèche in general?  St. Francis of Assisi and a special Christmas celebration at Greccio in 1223 played a very important role.   In an article re-published by the Catholic Education Resource Center, Fr. William Saunders shares the history as it relates to St. Francis.  According to Wikipedia, St. Francis had recently returned from the Holy Land.  Greccio was a small town in south-central Italy where St. Francis would be spending Christmas.  In a cave near there, St. Francis’ famous Christmas commemoration took place.  Fr. Saunder’s article draws from St. Bonaventure’s writings:

  • It happened in the third year before his death, that in order to excite the inhabitants of Greccio to commemorate the nativity of the Infant Jesus with great devotion, [St. Francis] determined to keep it with all possible solemnity; and lest he should be accused of lightness or novelty, he asked and obtained the permission of the sovereign Pontiff. Then he prepared a manger, and brought hay, and an ox and an ass to the place appointed. The brethren were summoned, the people ran together, the forest resounded with their voices, and that venerable night was made glorious by many and brilliant lights and sonorous psalms of praise. The man of God [St. Francis] stood before the manger, full of devotion and piety, bathed in tears and radiant with joy; the Holy Gospel was chanted by Francis….Then he preached to the people around the nativity of the poor King; and being unable to utter His name for the tenderness of His love, He called Him the Babe of Bethlehem. A certain valiant and veracious soldier, Master John of Greccio, who, for the love of Christ, had left the warfare of this world, and become a dear friend of this holy man, affirmed that he beheld an Infant marvelously beautiful, sleeping in the manger, Whom the blessed Father Francis embraced with both his arms, as if he would awake Him from sleep…

According to the Friends of the Creche, “the Low Latin word cripia, meaning manger, was the origin of the terms creche, crib, krippe, krubba, szopka and wertep meaning Nativity Scene respectively in French, English, German and Swedish, Polish and Russian.”

Wikipedia also shares that “such pantomimes became hugely popular and spread throughout Christendom.  Within a hundred years every church in Italy was expected to have a nativity scene at Christmastime.”  Through time, statues were used in place of live participants.  In Catholic countries in early modern times, “sculpted cribs were set up in Catholic churches and homes, often exported from Italy.”  These scenes became more elaborate and had their peak in Naples in the 1500s-1700s as well as in Genoa, Italy.  By the close of the 19th century, nativity scenes were also even popular outside of Catholic context and had many variations.

Christmas Gifts Wrapped in Prayer

This afternoon, at our Christmas gathering with our residents, one of our activities staff shared an inspiring essay with us.  She pointed out that, while wrapping Christmas gifts for loved ones, we can make a point to pray for each person.  Although we may have thought of this before, I was impressed by this little reminder.  Our prayers for each person can be a more valuable gift than the packages we’re wrapping.

Our halls are alive with the Sound of Music

Christmas (3) At St. Anne’s, the past few weeks have been a whirlwind of musical entertainment by various groups, from the Sweet Adelines  to church youth groups, to name some.  We are grateful to all those who have shared their beautiful voices and holiday cheer with our residents.  Students from St. Michael’s School even shared Christmas cookies!  Little do the know all the benefits music really has for elderly individuals! According to research documented by the University of South Florida’s School of Music, music participation with the elderly provided “multiple physical benefits regardless of the senior citizens’ health conditions.” This same source shared that active music participation can benefit senior citizens by contributing positively to their psychological well-being or mental health…”(Coffman, et. al.)  Such participation offers increased self-understanding, learning success, providing rewarding and interesting experiences, and an opportunity for creative self-expression, all of which increase their quality of life. Another online source, Music Sparks, outlines “remarkable psychological benefits” of listening to music for the elderly, including:

  • A happier outlook on life and improved interest levels
  • Improved social interaction
  • Discovery of personal identity and increased self-esteem
  • Enhanced moods and increased positive emotions
  • Increased communication in dementia and Alzheimer’s patients
  • Increased relaxation and reduced tension and anxiety

There are noteworthy physiological benefits as well, including:

  • Better nights of sleep
  • Diminished pain
  • Improved memory and recall
  • Improved recovery time
  • Increased awareness and ability to concentrate
  • Increased mobility and coordination
  • Increased overall cognitive abilities
  • Lessened need for medication
  • Reduced pain
  • Reduced recovery time

Adaire Ranstrom, music therapist and recent UND graduate, offers other insight on her website.  She shares research that music therapy can benefit those with a variety of disorders, including: Alzheimer’s/ Dementia, Autism, Strokes, COPD, Chronic Heart Failure, Parkinsons, Downs Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, Cortical Blindness, and Cancer. My father, Rick Neumann, who has worked with a program called “The Gathering” shared his thoughts on the benefits of music: “One of the things I have experienced first hand is at the Gathering.  The Gathering is a group of volunteers who ‘entertain’ a group of people with memory loss for 3.5 hours so their caregivers can have a break.  Some of the participants don’t really interact much during the day until music-time.  Once the music starts they all come alive and most remember the words to the songs.  It’s truly amazing.” Whether it be at Christmas time, or throughout the year, we all can benefit from “the Sound of Music.”  It is truly a gift for which to be grateful.   ~Sr. Christina Neumann