Christmas is a heart and soul time of the year – a theme that Sister Ann found running through the annual luncheon she organized for hundreds of senior citizens last Friday with singing, dancing, and remembering Christmases past.
Bishop Stephen Blaire was greeted by the crowd with birthday wishes and cut his cake with parishioners Mable Teicheira and Betty DeRestini who shared his birthday.
There was an unexpected giving of self by one parishioner, Sam Moreno, who agreed to make 325 Christmas wreaths to be given out to the seniors at the luncheon. It was just the special gift that the Manteca nun had been hoping to find in her planning. It was a gift that his wife Rose helped him mass produce for the luncheon.
Sister Ann placed the wreaths on small cards with her explanation of the meaning of “The Holly Wreath” and laid them at each seat in the gym.
The card told of the Holly Wreath symbolizing the crown of thorns worn by Jesus at Calvary. It noted the red berries represent the blood He shed for the forgiveness of our sins with the circle of the wreath being eternal life obtained through Him.
Sister Ann said she went by the Moreno home to thank Moreno for his tireless last minute effort to provide the wreaths for her luncheon. She said she was shocked to learn from his wife that he had suffered a heart attack and died – he would not be attending her holiday event – but his wreaths would leave their mark.
The packed St. Anthony’s gymnasium appeared touched by the story as the nun introduced Rose Moreno and told of her loss. While Sam was not there, his story left an indelible memory with everyone who listened.
Moreno and his wife moved to Manteca from San Jose three years ago. A dedicated church goer, he had worked for IBM for 39 years serving as an expediter while she worked as a teacher’s aide in the Alum Rock School district. He was presented the coveted IBM President’s Award for his dedication and devotion to the company.
She told of a man who had grown up in Plaquemine, LA, and had attended St. Josephs School from the elementary grades through high school where he and his friends learned how to bribe one nun to be let out early from class.
Chuckling, she related that the boys would chip in to buy cream puffs for their teacher on a regular basis – it definitely had its rewards, going home before the bell. And her story told a little about the man’s character of reaching out to others.
In high school he played the part of Joseph in a live nativity presentation. But, there was also the discipline that he told his wife he had experienced. The nuns would make the students kneel in the corner on a bed of rice for their punishment.
Doing for others is not anything new for the Morenos who worked with the Police Athletic League in the Bay Area and made baskets for the homeless in Morgan Hill where they also worked at the homeless centers both in San Jose and Morgan Hill.
Moreno coached Little League for some 15 years and who would pick up players in his truck when parents were able to transport them to the games and to practice.
“Last year at this time we were having family Thanksgiving and Christmas at our house – it’s not going to be the same this year,” she said. “It’s going to be a quiet Christmas.”
Mrs. Moreno said they had three children, two sons and a daughter who lives close by on Austin Road. She showed the excitement about her three grandchildren as well – all boys.