By ROSE ALBANO RISSO
Pink plastic flamingoes and dollar-store decorative pineapples artfully arranged on colorful party paper plates are lined up on a shelf in Sister Ann Venita Britto’s small but cozy workshop. In about a week, these colorful creations will enliven the dozens of dining tables spread out inside St. Anthony of Padua’s spacious gym.
They will be the centerpiece of every table during Sister Ann’s annual Senior Summer Luncheon. The sit-down and full-served dining event will be held on Thursday, Aug. 16, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
“Come out, cool off, dance, and enjoy the music of Pete and Ruben. Bring your friends! You don’t have to be Catholic to attend,” reads the flyer announcing the gastronomical entertanment which, like the half-dozen senior parties held during the year at the same venue, attracts 200 to 250 guests from all over the area with the majority of them coming from Manteca.
While many of them are St. Anthony parishioners, a good number come from care homes such as St. Jude (formerly Palm Haven) next door and Manteca Care Center on Northgate Drive, retirement communities such as The Commons at Union Ranch, Prestige and Brookdale Senior Living in the Family City, and members of other non-Catholic churches. Some of the senior facilities have their shuttle buses giving rides to their residents. Several of the guests carpool with friends.
The meal is free of charge. No admission fee is charged at the door. Guests sit down around white-covered tables decorated with centerpieces. Food and drinks are served to them. While they enjoy their meals, they are entertained by guest performers who also provide the music for dancing that follows. Various local musicians volunteer their talents for the occasions. Featured at the upcoming summer luncheon will be the duo musicians Pete and Ruben.
All-volunteer, donor-driven dining experience for seniors
St. Anthony’s senior luncheons is entirely a labor of love and generous donations. The cooks, the servers, the clean-up crew, the entertainers, those who set the tables and create the centerpieces all provide their time and talents gratis.
Sister Ann has a long list of volunteers. Among the regulars in her workshop are arts and crafts experts that include Pat Trone, Darlene Auch, Lilita Rilcopiro, Jeanne Rowen, Diane Fadeff and Miguel Costa. Trone and Rilcopiro are parents of Sister Ann’s former students when she taught at St. George’s School in Stockton. Besides creating and preparing the table centerpieces, some of the volunteers also help by watching for sales at the dollar stores and doing the shopping.
Generous individuals and groups keep the luncheons going, thanks to their generous donations. The food for the summer luncheon, for example, is being made possible by a donation from Raymus Homes in memory of the late Marie Raymus. Sister Ann brought Communion to her before she passed away.
There are six luncheons currently scheduled during the year. One celebrates the feast day in June of St. Anthony of Padua, the patron saint of the parish. Easter, Halloween, Valentine’s Day and Christmas are the other luncheon occasions.
Like any project or program, the senior luncheons had humble beginnings.
“We started with 50 or 80 people (attending). The news spread and now we have 200 to 300 (guests),” Sister Ann said about this dining experience that she started when she became part of St. of Anthony of Padua’s staff. She is in charge of Pastoral Care and Senior Ministry.
She has but two more senior luncheons to host until the end of the year though — Halloween and Christmas. She is set to leave St. Anthony’s by the end of December when she and the other sisters of her order will leave for England to be with the other nuns in their order. With membership growing smaller, they are being forced to end their ministerial presence in California, Sister Ann said.
Their departure will end the presence of their order in California. The Golden State is the only place where their congregation, Daughters of the Cross of Liege, had served in the United States.
Founded by Blessed Marie Therese (Jeanne Haze) in Belgium, the ministry of the Daughters of the Cross is to “(respond) to the needs of the times” by undertaking “ministries in education, special education, health care in hospitals, hospices and dispensaries, in the care of the elderly, and of those suffering from epilepsy, in marriage counselling and in varied forms of parish work,” according to the order’s web page, www.daughtersofthecross.org.uf
For more information about the Senior Summer Luncheon, call Sister Ann at St. Anthony of Padua, 209.823.7197.