CELEBRATION OF OUR 50 YEARS OF SERVICE IN ENFIELD, CT
August 28, 2022
“God, in your goodness, you have made a home for the poor”
On July 8, 2022 we had a small celebration of the 50th anniversary of the actual date of our arrival in Enfield from New Haven, Connecticut. The whole event of our move to Enfield had been a work of God’s providence, and the history is fascinating.
Realizing that we are unable to have a large celebration at this time due to COVID-19 still circulating, we invited Archbishop Leonard P. Blair to come and celebrate with us on a smaller scale. He was able to accept, being available on August 28, two days before St. Jeanne Jugan’s feast day. Our Little Sisters were eagerly preparing in the days leading up to this celebration—setting up a display of old photos in the lobby, gift-wrapping, liturgy preparation… We shared a chuckle among ourselves at the irony of having chosen our lovely opening song, “All Are Welcome” at this time when–due to the pandemic–we could not welcome the many, many people whom we would have liked to invite. Blessed be God!
Thoughtful messages were received during these days of preparation from La Tour and from Little Sisters in other Homes who were united with us in joyful thanksgiving on this occasion. Then as the day of our celebration dawned, a reporter and photographer arrived from the archdiocesan television station and interviewed several Little Sisters and Residents about what the Home, as well as this special anniversary event, means to them.
A half-hour before Mass time, we were pleased to welcome Archbishop Blair and his secretary Fr. John Gancarz, a young priest who had gone to college with one of our young Little Sisters. We had also invited the Felician Sisters, and five of them came. Our chaplain Fr. Robert Rousseau was present as well to concelebrate the Mass.
Our beautiful Mass of Thanksgiving was preceded by words from Mother Maureen, who signaled our gratitude to the Felician Sisters and gave a brief history of our move to Enfield. Archbishop Blair gave a lovely homily speaking of how the theme of the Readings for the Mass was centered on humility, which is a virtue that we hear little of these days. He also brought out that in the Gospel, Our Lord goes beyond the idea of inviting people for a meal so as to receive one in return, saying that we should invite those who cannot repay us. The responsorial psalm was so appropriate for the occasion: “God, in your goodness you have made a home for the poor.” All of this was livestreamed so that we could thank our many benefactors and friends who were not with us, and it is now accessible for viewing on our website.
Following the Mass, Archbishop Blair went around with Mother Maureen to the various dining rooms to greet our Residents and give them the small gift of a night light with a religious quote on it. He was most gracious with everyone.
We gathered in St. Joseph’s Hall for a warm and intimate sharing of the feast day meal with Archbishop Blair, his secretary Fr. John, Fr. Rousseau, the Felician Sisters, and ourselves. As we mingled while going through the buffet line, Fr. Gancarz confided to Mother Maureen that he is very fond of our religious family and would not hesitate to refer to us young women discerning their vocation.
Our time together around the table provided the occasion to share a little on the history of the event we were celebrating. Mother began by asking Sr. Gerard Marie de la Trinité to share her memories.
Sr. Gerard explained that she was at our former Home in New Haven when the inspectors came in and told the Little Sisters that our Home no longer met the fire regulations. They mentioned to the surveyor that we were thinking of building on the property and that there was also a possibility that we might be able to purchase a different property from another religious community. The inspector said to do the latter if possible, because within a short while we would be receiving a notice telling us we will have to move out without delay.
In the meantime the Felician Sisters, who had begun a building intended for their own use, had met snags and were unable to complete the project. It sounded as if God in his providence had permitted this in order to provide “a home for the poor.” Archbishop Whelan put the two groups in contact with each other and an arrangement was made. This was the beginning of a long relationship between the two religious communities. There were other buyers interested, it seems, but the Felicians really wanted us to have the property. One of their Sisters who was dying prayed that it would be so and soon after her death, the Little Sisters were chosen. It was a happy yet sad outcome for the Felician Sisters, as one Sister explained. They were losing the building which they thought was going to be theirs, while they were happy it was another religious community with poor people who were going to have it. The Felician Sisters told us how they have appreciated their relationship with the Little Sisters over the years, and the blessing that this friendship has been.
During the completion of the building project, the Residents of our New Haven Home were not able to come to see where they would be living because of building contracts. When the day arrived for the move, they came on buses supplied by a benefactor and made touching comments such as “I never knew it would be so beautiful!” Sr. Genevieve Regina, present at our gathering today, gave interesting details about the move also. She mentioned that Mr. and Mrs. Golas were here to welcome the Little Sisters on the day they arrived fifty years ago and brought them supper. Mrs. Golas (Marge) was our activity director for many years and is now a Resident, and her son is our pastor at St. Jeanne Jugan Parish.
Another interesting story recounted by the Little Sisters was that of the St. Joseph statue which is found at our present driveway entrance. Mother Provincial Regis de St. Joseph wanted a statue with St. Joseph and the boy Jesus. Most statues have the baby Jesus with St. Joseph.
Sr. Gerard Marie went to New York with Mother Marie Vincente de Ste. Anne, the first Mother of our home in Enfield, in search of the desired statue, but could not find one of that nature. But they saw one they liked at St. Raymond’s cemetery. It turned out that the sculptor who did that statue agreed to do one for us. That particular statue did not have faces, so Mother Marie Vincente found a picture of her father with her sister when the latter was about 10 years old. The sculptor used it as a model to do the statue. It seems that during a blackout in the town of Enfield in our early days there, the only light burning was that in front of St. Joseph! The people thought it was a miracle, but the Little Sisters later discovered that the light was attached to our generator. A picture of this statue, with a brief history on the back, was placed at each place in our dining area today.
From here, Archbishop Blair was going to make an appearance at the parish picnic at St. Jeanne Jugan Parish. As he prepared to depart, we took great comfort and encouragement from his words which acknowledged that, while we do not know how the future will unfold (due to the lack of vocations for the archdiocese and for our religious families), yet we have faith and the certitude of knowing that our future is in God’s hands. As our holy Mother has said, “If God builds the house, God will not abandon it.”
Leave a Reply