Already it is the 6th of January, the actual Feast of Epiphany, Little Christmas, the 12th day of Christmas. Tomorrow the Manger scene in our Sacred Heart Chapel will be carefully packed away for another year. The Christmas trees in our sitting room and dining room will also be taken down and put back in storage in the basement of B Bldg.
It makes me a bit sad when this happens. But, the sun has been shining brightly all day and we noticed yesterday that it was still a bit light when we went over to the dining room for supper. The Entrance Antiphon for today’s Mass is from Isaiah 9.1, “A people who walked in darkness has seen a great light; for those dwelling in a land of deep gloom, a light has shone.” Father Jones reminded us in his homily this morning about Jesus, being our light in the darkness. The music he played after Communion, “A time will come for singing” foretells of a time when darkness is over; when the blind see, the deaf hear and the lame walk. There are down or dark times in all of our lives but there are many times for singing also, and for these we are most grateful.
We have had many times these past couple of months that are times of light and singing. In November we gathered in our dining room for a Thanksgiving Dinner that could compare with the finest restaurant and we gave thanks for this place, for warmth, for each other and for our good food. A couple of days later the Chapel was transformed to the purple altar cloth and the Advent candles. One being lit the first Sunday and by the fourth week all four, light eventually increasing and on Christmas morning the four Advent candles shining and surrounding the middle white candle also burning and representing Christ, the light of the world.
On December 17, our dining room was decorated in blue & silver, the tree gaily decorated all in preparation for our annual Christmas Party prepared for us by Christ Our Light Parish in Pulaski as they have done for 40 some years. It is one of the highlights of every year. Turkey, Roast Beef and all the trimmings that go with such a meal plus punch and cookies and topped off with hot fudge sundaes a highlight each year.
We need to remind ourselves that it is still Advent, a time of preparation, and we are reminded because many donations from you good folks start coming in. Packages, gift bags of goodies, food donations, even food and litter for our eighteen resident cats. The main room on the 2nd floor of the Bricks is beginning to fill up with these preparations to be gifts for our men to be given out at Christmas.
Christmas Eve finds us gathered in the Dining Room led by Father in giving thanks again and lining up for our annual pasta Christmas Eve supper. After supper each man is called up and presented with his gifts from under the tree. This is a special time each year that we all look forward to. The Chapel has been prepared for the morning and the vigil lights at each window shine forth, awaiting the birth of the Christ Child, the Light of the World.
The next morning we gather in our Sacred Heart Chapel where the Manger has been readied just below the Main Altar and surrounded by colorful poinsettias. “O Come All Ye Faithful” Mary Agnes leads us to open our Mass and we are all brought back to the many Christmas mornings of our lives, and with the singing of Silent Night at Communion, tears form in our eyes remembering. We leave the Chapel singing “Joy to the World” and are soon back in our Dining Room to enjoy again a wonderful meal prepared by our good kitchen staff. We give thanks again for our many blessings and in particular this morning for Phil’s return after surgery this month. The tables are decorated and on each table is a gift bag as has been for probably 40 some years provided by our Sue Heinley who had done this so faithfully with her husband Barney who has now gone to his heavenly reward this past February.
Unity Acres is a Home for men who have been homeless. It is a place that some would call a “Homeless Shelter”. It is a place that many men call Home. Our men have seen much in their day, struggling with the horrible addiction of alcohol and drugs. Of being separated and estranged from their families because of this disease. They come here to try to get away from the streets, from the temptations of their previous lives and to find rest, warmth, clean clothing and peace as well as abundance of good food. Some fall and must leave for a time which is a difficult time for all of us. If they return sixty days later, it is like the Prodigal Son all over again and again. There is much in the news today about forcing the homeless off the streets and we appreciate what is being tried but we also know that some of the men are not that keen in coming in out of the elements. We are very relieved when they do choose to do so.
During the fall a letter by our Fund Raising Committee went out extending our heartfelt appreciation to every benefactor of Unity Acres. The letter described many improvements made during the past five years. Along with this letter of appreciation was a return enveloped marked “Energy Project”. This project was quite a success and as of this writing $14,000 plus has been realized and will help offset costs for electricity and heating during these cold-weather months and help to provide on-going hospitality of warmth and light for our residents.
In October we were notified by the family of Bob Moran that he had died quite suddenly on October 26 at the age of 50. Bob had been a part of our Unity Acres family for several years and lived in C Building. He was a pleasant man, very well-liked by his brothers and we the staff as well. Bob was overseer of the coffee house for a long time until it was a bit difficult for him although he was not actually really down with an illness but did have breathing difficulty. His mom and some of his family are in the Pittsburgh area and after visiting them every so often, Bob decided to move on to be near family and friends in Pennsylvania. A recent letter from Bob’s mother tells us that he was so happy to be back in Pennsylvania and close to her and his family. He came in June and shortly after he became engaged to his high school sweetheart. Mrs. M had found him an apartment that was all one floor and close to her (his mom). She thinks God had plans for him to be back home. Bob died with his Rosary in his hands. Rest in peace Bob. You are and will continue to be missed by your family here at Unity Acres.
Two of our men have lost close ones these past few weeks. We offer our condolences to John G. and to Sparky on the deaths of their dear ones. John lost a very dear friend December 15 and Sparky’s sister passed this past week. May they both rest in peace.
On November 19 Loretta and Steve received a call that Steve’s uncle Lawrence (his dad’s brother) had passed after a difficult illness and the same day Peg learned that her niece Meg had also died. Exactly one month later, Loretta was told that her brother Louis had died at home in Newfoundland. We are saddened by these deaths. Rest in peace dear ones and we offer our condolences to the families involved.
During Advent we were reminded by readings from Holy Scripture especially from the prophet Isaiah that “They that hope in the Lord will renew their strength…” In an Advent booklet, Sister Joyce Rupp, OSM, writes “each of the readings and many more affirm the endless availability of God’s strength to lift us up when we are down, to restore a sense of balance when plans go askew, to rekindle light when all seems dark, to provide peaceful rest for our weariness.”
We pray that each and every one of you and ourselves will open ourselves to receive these gifts; will receive this precious Light and have our eyes and ears opened and walk in God’s Holy Light. May you have a Happy, Holy and Healthy 2016 New Year.