Ministering to Seniors a Special Calling at St. Anthony Shrine, Boston

HNP Communications Around the Province

BOSTON — The leadership at St. Anthony Shrine in Boston has long recognized the importance of ministry to its more mature members.

The seniors program – called Seniors at Arch Street — draws about 50 parishioners, age 60 and up, who come to the shrine on Wednesdays for 10 a.m. Mass, followed by exercise class, an entertaining program and a lively lunch.

“We even have one 103-year-old who comes each week,” said Gary Convertino, director of Human Services, who coordinates the group with Sr. Margaret Henry, M.F.I.C., assistant director.

“Ministry to the seniors is so important,” said Convertino, “especially since some of the people have been here since the shrine opened in 1952. It’s important to show our appreciation to our seniors.”

100 Seniors Take a Summer Cruise
One of the ways the shrine shows its appreciation is through four big activities a year, the most recent being a July cruise around Boston Harbor.

Almost 100 seniors sailed on the yacht-like Spirit of Boston, according to Dr. Jackie Stewart, director of Evangelization and Franciscan Adult School. The cruise included a grand buffet and a vaudeville-type show performed by the waiters and waitresses.

Many of the seniors had a ball doing the chicken dance and the Macarena, and dancing to the song “YMCA.”

Our goal for the group,” said Convertino, “is to create friendship, and community, something that’s really important if seniors don’t get out of the house a lot.”

“The seniors truly enjoyed the boating experience, but most of all enjoyed the company, friendship, and spirit this trip offered,” added Stewart.

While past cruises have included reflections or a spiritual program, seniors expressed an interest this time in simply having fun, according to Convertino. Prior to the cruise, they gathered at the shrine for Mass.

The next event on the seniors’ calendar is an Americana concert and reflection to commemorate Sept. 11. Americana concerts are always popular with the seniors, according to Convertino. The group is also looking forward to its annual Christmas activity, and its weekly meetings which include movies, a spirituality program and a wellness seminar throughout the month.

The Seniors at Arch Street is coordinated by an advisory council of senior members, and one volunteer participant. Transportation to and from off-site activities is provided by a shrine parishioner who owns a bus company and donates the services.

“Everyone loved the cruise experience,” said Convertino. Participants said, “It was a great time,” “Let’s do it again,” and “Always a great experience.”