by Ceil Roeger, OP
December was a month of Christmas and Advent celebrations for the Dominican Sisters of Houston. The first celebration was provided by the Knights of Columbus from St. Michael Parish. The relationship between the knights and the sisters started with a phone call from Darryl Shields, Knights of Columbus, to Laura Henderson, Houston Dominicans Advancement Director. The knights were interested in projects that would assist the retired sisters. After visiting the grounds, they decided to help with the spring cleaning of the landscape around the Villa. This included trimming hedges, sago palm bushes and mulching around the trees. They also provided new easy off/on faucets in the sisters’ rooms, and in the fall added more security lighting to the Villa’s front and back entrances. (The staff coming and leaving in the dark really appreciate this gift.)
When the projects were completed, the Knights weren’t finished giving, and wanted to treat the sisters to dinner out. Considering that this would entail transporting, canes, walkers, and wheelchairs in addition to the sisters, the Knights brought the party to the sisters. On Dec. 6, several Knights and their ladies transformed the community room into a fashionable dining room. That evening, a catered meal was served on china (provided by the caterer). The evening was enjoyed by all, especially when Santa came to call.
On Sunday, Dec. 14, the “Spirit Cookers” came to celebrate with the sisters. For many years, these dedicated men and women have been come in December to celebrate Christmas with the sisters and provide Sunday dinner. The celebration began with a reception in the community room where hors d’oeuvres are served. This gave the men time to fry the fish and set up the steam tables with the remainder of the meal. Following dinner, gift bags were handed out to each sister. This annual visit from the Spirit Cookers gives the sisters and cookers time to reconnect and catch up on the events of the previous year.
The following Tuesday, it was time to celebrate the staff and volunteers. The party started with dinner in the dining room. In an effort to free up the kitchen staff, food was catered in from Taco Cabana. Council led the cleanup in the dining room as everyone was invited to the community room for dessert. Sister Carol expressed words of appreciation on behalf of the community and Sister Eleanor distributed gifts of appreciation to the staff and volunteers.
The sisters were joined by members of the Dominican Family for Morning Prayer on Dec. 20 and their annual Advent Prayer and Brunch. Sister Adrian Dover led prayer. Debbie Sieck, member of the Dominican Family, reflected on the importance of self-compassion, reminding us that we need to take care of ourselves if we want to truly be compassionate with others. Sister Carol presented the Pauline Gannon Award to Hunter Nelson. Hunter is the nephew of Sister Davidica Nelson, who died in 1998. Hunter recalled that his aunt was fond of traveling. To honor her memory, several years ago he set up a “vacation” fund for the sisters. Several sisters present were happy to express their appreciation. Brunch and conversation followed as holiday greetings and plans were shared.
On Sunday, the sisters again gathered at the Villa for dinner and the annual “prayer partners” dinner. Volunteers helped transport the sisters from St. Dominic Village nursing home. Gifts were exchanged and a good time was had by all. Fr. Mary Iott, OP joined the sisters on Christmas morning to celebrate Eucharist and the reason for all of the celebrating “The Greatest Gift of All”—the birth of Jesus.