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placeholder January 4, 2016   •   VOL. 54, NO. 1   •   Oakland, CA
Senior Living & Resources

Parishioners from St. Jarlath in Oakland — some of them now residents at Mercy Retirement and Care Center — enjoy a December lunch with their pastor, Father Stephan Kappler, back to camera, in the Mercy dining room.

Rosalie Souza places small decorated trees, gifts for the St. Jarlath parishioners who live at Mercy Center, at the table. She and her mother, Frances Souza, rear, joined Father Stephan Kappler in the visit.

Mercy Center: Residents keep the faith in retirement

The distance separating St. Jarlath Parish and the Mercy Retirement and Care Center is a little more than a mile, by way of Oakland's Fruitvale Avenue. But although that distance may seem great for those who live at the center, it was bridged beautifully on a rainy December day when the pastor and a pair of longtime parishioners made the journey to enjoy prayer and fellowship — and a tasty lunch of your choice of chicken or sloppy joes — with parishioners who now reside at the center.

Rev. Stephan Kappler

Rosalie Souza has grown up in the parish, and knows the parishioners who have moved to the Mercy Center. She and her mother, Frances, joined Rev. Stephan Kappler in the visit. Rosalie Souza carried a box of little potted living trees. She placed a small decorated tree at each parishioner's place at the lunch table. Cards with names written large in beautiful calligraphy script were placed with them.

"We know a lot of the parishioners," Rosalie said.

Dining chairs were removed to allow wheelchairs, as needed to roll up to the place settings.

Father Kappler sat at the head of the table, engaging in lively conversation with four parishioners who have come to the table from their rooms. Two parishioners, feeling ill, sent their regrets. Their cards and trees would be delivered to them later in the day.

This festive event wasn't on the calendar — a busy one for the month of December, filled with concerts and other holiday activities — at the Mercy Center, where 168 residents live in assisted living, memory care and skilled nursing areas.

It was, Father Kappler said, just a visit from a parish to its parishioners.

The sense of community radiated throughout the dining room, where residents dined in small, amiable table groups of two to four. One exception, in the middle of the room, was a long table of Franciscans. Accustomed to living in community, they requested a community table for meals, said Janet Thompson, Mercy's director of sales and marketing.

About 25 percent of Mercy's residents, Thompson said, are retired religious. Father Paul Raftery, OP, was enjoying a visit from Dominican novices who joined him for lunch.

For the St. Jarlath party, the visit began in Mercy's chapel, where Father Kappler led a short prayer service, complete with song. He passed out song sheets. "O Come All Ye Faithful" was sung.

After a Gospel reading, Father Kappler asked for God's blessing on "our parishioners here at Mercy Retirement and Care Center who have given so much to our parish," as well as all Mercy residents, and all who care for them. "May they always recognize the Emmanuel in our midst," he said. "May it always be a place of mercy and kindness."

Among those parishioners in attendance, front row, was Bill Brusher, who turned 95 in May. A member of the Knights of Malta, Brusher was active in the establishment of the Malta Clinic, which provides medical care for uninsured adults, at the Cathedral of Christ the Light.

His relationship with Mercy Center, he said, goes back into the last century. He served on its board in the 1990s.

He served the Mercy community as an altar server until just a few months ago. In addition to Sunday Mass, daily Mass is offered at Mercy.

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