Each year, we have more than 2,500 volunteers who joyfully give their time to serve those in need in the Diocese of Arlington. At our St. Martin de Porres Senior Center, we have 312 volunteers (and growing!) who bring companionship, health and wellness classes and seminars, fun and games, inter-religious prayer, and much more to seniors living in Alexandria who visit our center.
Bishop O’Connell Students Bring “Ministry of Presence” to Seniors
In April (2016), sophomores from Bishop O’Connell High School in Arlington brought a “ministry of presence” to St. Martin’s, playing games, leading activities and spending time getting to know the seniors.
The trip was a part of their annual service retreat, which included a prayer service, additional service projects, and fellowship at the school.
Kathryn Hogan, Bishop O’Connell High School Christian Service Coordinator, leads service initiatives at the school. Her goal is to awaken a spirit of service in the students. “Service is more than a checklist completed at graduation,” Hogan said. “We want to plant seeds so our students will go serve time and time again.”
Fr. Gregory Thompson, Bishop O’Connell High School Campus Minister, helps the students connect the service to their faith.
“How does service make me a better person?” Fr. Thompson said. “How do I help others now that I know Christ? These are questions we are asking our students so that they understand that our faith is alive! It’s something to be lived, not just learned in a classroom.”
Teaching English and Finding Joy in Service
“I love teaching at St. Martin’s,” said Theresa Heaney. “The seniors are smart, funny, accomplished people who have so much interest in learning new things, and it is a joy to help them.”
Heaney is an English as a Second Language (ESOL) volunteer, helping seniors who are not native speakers better understand the nuances of English. She also incorporates interesting facts about American culture. The seniors at St. Martin’s represent about 40 different nationalities and 12 different languages.
She started volunteering at St. Martin’s two years ago when her youngest of four children started at Bishop Ireton High School in Alexandria. Not ready to return to the workforce, Heaney wanted to spend her free time helping others. She went in search of volunteer opportunities at Catholic Charities, signed up on the website and was contacted about serving at St. Martin’s.
“I find it tremendously rewarding to play a small part in making someone’s day more satisfying,” Heaney said.
Heaney also leans on her faith as an inspiration for volunteering. She and her family are members of St. Raymond of Penafort parish in Springfield. “I believe that God gives us all many gifts and talents, and it is important to share those gifts for the betterment of others,” she said.
Nurse Teaches Health and Wellness
Shirley Brott RN, BSN, MEd jokingly refers to her volunteer role at St. Martin’s as “divine intervention.”
“I had the time and motivation, and this was the perfect fit,” she said. “I love coming in to work with the seniors one-on-one and educate them about health and wellness. I guess it really was God at work!”
Brott teaches the seniors about disease prevention, anatomy, and physiology. In May, they discussed the cardiovascular and respiratory systems. Once the lectures are complete, she meets with seniors individually to discuss the lectures as it relates to their health.
“That’s what I really love about it – getting to know each senior and learn about what’s going on with them and their health,” she said. “I feel like it’s a little clinic for the senior center!”
She is a retired nurse of 35 years and has worked as a nurse educator and with senior populations. But Brott says this is more than being able to share her passions because she gets so much out of it too.
“For me, to enjoy the passion of life, means serving people in the best way that I possibly can,” she said. “Service to the community is a tenant of my life and important for my well-being.”
Whether it’s you, your parents or your grandparents, we all want the seniors in our life to age with grace and dignity. We want to be the senior center that you turn to when you need help. One of the ways that St. Martin de Porres Senior Center remains an outstanding senior center is because of the dedicated volunteers that bring passion and energy to uplift and engage our seniors! We specifically need volunteers to lead weekly activities and games, to accompany the seniors on field trips and shopping trips, and to serve breakfast and lunch. We also need in-kind donations, including board games, party supplies, and coffee and tea. Click here to become a volunteer or make a financial gift in support of the poor, or please visit www.ccda.net or email Senior Services Program Director, Gracie Ortiz, at GOrtiz@ccda.net.