St. Francis Xavier School celebrates senior citizens for over 45 years

St. Francis Xavier 8th grader Izabella Mayfield enjoys visiting with her grandparents during their annual senior citizen day. Two hundred forty-five area senior citizens were celebrated during Mass, luncheon, and entertainment. (Sara Kraft/Key photo)

By Sara Kraft

“When you see the 8th graders and all the work they do and visit with them, it gives you a lot of hope for the future,” stated Diane Holtz.

Diane and other St. Francis Xavier Parish and greater St. Joseph community members attended Mass and a luncheon honoring senior citizen’s contributions to the community on October 18 at St. Francis Xavier School. Two hundred and forty-five senior citizens attended, and approximately 230 St. Francis Xavier students helped in various functions.

This dinner, thanking and learning from senior citizens from the St. Francis Xavier and greater St. Joseph community, has been occurring for over forty-five years. It originally started as grandparents’ day, but later changed to Senior Citizen Day to include more community members. Throughout all those years, St. Francis Xavier School 8th graders have hosted and learned from the senior citizens. Originally, the event was held in the school, with the school cooks making the main dish and 8th grade students bringing side dishes. Later, the event was moved to the St. Francis Xavier Parish Center to better accommodate the guests. Today, thanking the senior citizens is so important that St. Francis Xavier School caters the meal.

Over the years, there were a lot of memorable moments. The most notable day was when the event was held in the school gym and a second grader pulled the fire alarm. The entire building had to be evacuated in the midst of the dinner.

This year, the day began with Mass with the eighth graders dressed in their best, sitting with their guests and the 7th grade students participating in the various liturgical ministries. Following Mass, a catered lunch was held with the 7th graders serving the meal. They served drinks, brought out the meal, and took away the empty plates. Following the meal, students from first through sixth grades performed a skit and music numbers featuring classic “jukebox” music nostalgia from yesteryear. The performers dressed in period-specific costumes. The 8th graders were also responsible for setting the tables up, placing the silverware, and putting out placemats made by St. Francis Xavier School students.

“Students learn how to get along with and carry conversations around the table,” stated St. Francis Xavier School principal Darin Pollard. “In today’s technology-connected world, there’s not a lot of connections face-to-face. This event is a great way to connect and carry on conversation.”

Both senior citizens and students agreed the event was meaningful and a great way to visit with others in the community.

“I think our grandchildren are our hope,” explained Terry Strong, who attended at the invitation of her grandchild. “It’s a wonderful event for the children and grandparents. It’s wonderful the grandchildren appreciate their grandparents so much. And we appreciate them, so it’s a win-win,” stated Terry.

“I like spending time with our seniors. It makes me excited to know we are spending time with our seniors and thanking them,” stated 7th grader Tatum Studer.

“The best part of the day is being able to spend time with my relatives and get to know other people,” stated eighth grader Izabella Mayfield. Izabella sat with her dad’s mom, her mom’s parents, and her grandma’s sister. “I hope that more people will recognize that seniors are honored.”

The event speaks to the continued “family tradition” of Catholic education in St. Joseph. Several of the senior citizens who came to see their grandchildren in the program had also sent their children to St. Francis Xavier School.

“Our parish has strongly supported the school by sending kids to it for many generations,” explained Mr. Pollard. “In fact many people who attended were once students and had grandchildren who gave them hugs after the performance. We also have one of our teachers who can trace her and her husband’s history back to the founding of the parish in 1890.”

“I love that my grandchildren are carrying on the tradition of not only Catholic education but St. Francis Xavier education,” stated Diane. Additionally, Diane’s son currently teaches at St. Francis Xavier School.

In addition to grandparents, it is neat to see many veteran teachers, retired staff, and former school parents return to St. Francis Xavier School for the luncheon.

Guest Mike Violett sat at a table full of old friends. He explained that his children went to St. Francis Xavier School, and he became lifelong friends with those at the table through their connection to St. Francis Xavier School.

“It’s hard not to be happy to see the little kids perform,” explained Mike.

Betty Werner, retired St. Francis Xavier School cook for 33 years, joked, “It’s nice being served instead of cooking! And we don’t have to clean up!”

“If you see the children out in the community, they will stop and talk to us,” explained retired St. Francis Xavier cook Judy Sheehan, “even if we have to ask who they are.”

“It’s kind of like some of our own kids,” explained Betty.

“This event is a great chance for the school to appreciate and thank the many people who continue to support our school and children through their stewardship and prayers,” explained Mr. Pollard. “It also allows the 8th grade a chance to learn from and interact with these kind and wise seniors.” Both students and seniors are already looking forward to next year!

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Saturday
November 18, 2017
Newspaper of the Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph