By Pat Shea
Sun associate editor
Mind, body, spirit. No matter how old you become, it’s important that all three are fed, and fed well.
At Holy Family Church in Syracuse, there is a strong focus on senior ministries. Three programs in particular — Holy Family Seniors, Pastoral Care and the Homebound Food Program — seem to make a tremendous difference in both the physical, and spiritual healing of the parish’s senior population
Holy Family Seniors
It’s the first Tuesday of the month and judging from the laughter coming from the basement at Holy Family Church that can only mean one thing: Holy Family Seniors are in the house!
There’s a group of senior citizens gathered at one table discussing trip possibilities for the future while another group sits together and plays cards. The smell of freshly brewed coffee hangs in the air and pictures from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the group’s last trip, are circulating.
The group began 15 years ago and although operates as mostly a social group, they offer an opportunity for seniors to get necessary information as well.
“We go on trips, we have guest speakers come in and we have seminars to discuss important information such as healthcare or finances that seniors should know about, ” explained senior group president Cathy Jenkins, who has been a part of the program since it began.
“I originally went to take my mother and my brother,” said Jenkins. “I had just turned 55 so I qualified to go as well. It turned out to be a great thing for all of us.
“We could have gone to this other senior group that was based in the village of Camillus, but it was too far,” Jenkins continued. “In 1995, a group of us spoke with our pastor, Father Paul Angelicco, and together we created the Holy Family Seniors. The church lets us meet in the basement and we recruit new members every month through the bulletin.”
Although the majority of the 60 members who attend the senior group belong to the Holy Family Parish, interested members don’t have to belong to the church in order to participate in the senior program. “We collect five dollars a year in dues and that money usually goes toward helping a student go to Bishop Ludden High School,” explained Jenkins.
The senior group also helped in part to fund the reconstruction of the Holy Family Church by hosting numerous bake sales and white elephant sales.
The group at one time had over 200 members but Jenkins points out as the group ages, the membership is beginning to dwindle a bit.
“What we really need is a lot more of the 55 to 65 age group to join. We need ‘new blood’ to come in,” laughed Jenkins. “Our base group is aging, but Holy Family Seniors is important. The group not only gets people out of the house, it gets them socializing and gives them a place to talk about their problems. It gives them a place to belong.”
Homebound food program
In addition to providing a social outlet for seniors, Holy Family Church also helps to provide the basics to seniors who may struggling to put food on their tables.
On the second Wednesday of the month, volunteers for the homebound food program pack grocery bags filled with non-perishables to deliver to 36 households with 46 seniors who are unable to leave their homes due to illness, disability or simple transportation issues.
The program, coordinated by Maureen Malay and Kelly Waldby, provide the elderly with a monthly food delivery. To qualify for the program, seniors must meet financial guidelines and live within a specific geographic area.
The Holy Family Homebound Food Program receives referrals from the Interreligious Food Consortium and extends service to homebound seniors in the neighboring parishes of St. Joseph and St. Cecilia’s.
Feeding the spirit
Although social interaction and basic nutrition are critical for seniors to survive, there is another sustenance that is needed, especially as a senior becomes ill and disabled.
Sister Caryn Haas, DSMP, at Holy Family Church coordinates the Pastoral Care Program at Holy Family Church. This program provides spiritual sustenance through the visitation of the homebound, even if they are placed in long-term care facilities. Through this program, seniors receive spiritual nurturing as they move to the end phase of their natural life.
For more information on Holy Family Church’s senior ministries, contact