On Gaudete Sunday during Advent, a Little Sister had the idea for a way to continue the “rejoice”-ing of Christmas even after the Christmas season would end. In order to accentuate the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity during this Year of Faith, could we take the Residents on a European cruise to explore the origins of the divisions among Christians and the hopes for future unity? Working with the Activities Department, a plan was developed that would integrate the temporal and the spiritual, with all the activities of a cruise and a time of prayer or discussion each day related to Christian Unity.
The big adventure began on January 18th, the first day of the Unity Octave. In the morning the Residents picked up their passports (complete with their picture inside) and plane tickets for the “flight” to Rome, from where the cruise boat would set out. In the afternoon they went to the “bank” to collect their travel funds, from the First National Bank of Funny Money. At 4:15pm we went to the chapel for our Ecumenical Service, led by Fr. Erick Bergman, a priest who came into the Catholic Church from the Episcopalian Church several years ago. Father explained to us that it was the Catholic Church’s pro-life stance which ultimately led him to come into union with Rome, along with half of the parishioners of his Episcopalian parish. Fr. Bergman was the first priest incardinated into the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter in May 2012.
At supper it was time to board the plane for Rome. The pantry aides on each floor posed as flight attendants, checking the Residents in and making them leave behind over-sized luggage! Aside from a “security breach” on the 3rd floor, all went smoothly and everyone settled in for the overnight flight to Rome. In the morning it was time to board the ship. Earlier in the week the Residents on each floor had chosen names for their boats, Residents as captains and staff as First Mates. The activities staff outdid themselves in creating boat designs for each floor, which stretched the whole length of the dining room wall.
Before the ship would launch at noon, a Little Sister gave a short talk explaining what the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is all about. The talk ended just in time for the Rosary and Mass, and then it was time for the ships to launch! Everyone had a balloon and (despite a few technical difficulties) over the PA system a foghorn could be heard, followed by “Anchors Aweigh”. The travelers enjoyed a buffet lunch, and then had a short rest before heading to the “Auditorium Sea Port” for a Chinese New Year party.
On Sunday we arrived in France, with lunch at the famous Parisian “Saint Famille Bistro”. For this and all the rest of the dinners and suppers, small cards were at each person’s place with the day’s special indicated. After a short rest, travelers could enjoy a video tour of Paris with Madeleine, and then several came to the chapel for the regular weekly holy hour, this week offered especially for the intention of Christian unity. After the Holy Hour it was time for “Un Verre de Joie” in the dining rooms before supper at “Monique’s by the Sea”.
After a good night’s rest, Monday was “Dress Like a Tourist” Day for everyone. The travelers enjoyed French toast and sausage at the “Jugan Café”, before going shopping on the Champs-Elysees to choose their fancy dresses for the dinner dance coming up on Thursday. We then sailed across the Channel to England, and had a special visit from Queen Elizabeth II during lunch at Buckingham Palace. After going souvenir shopping at the Bingo Prize Boutique, a large group came for an afternoon tea party, which included a discussion about the new movements towards unity with Anglicans and Episcopalians. Of course a visit to England wouldn’t be complete without a fish and chips supper and a trip to the race track where everyone could bet on their favorites.
On Tuesday morning the ladies had time at the spa while we sailed from England to Norway. Noontime brought two options for the travelers: to either enjoy a Norwegian lunch or to go to the Cathedral for a pro-life Mass, with lunch on return to the house. Only a few Residents could participate in the second option, because of the bitter cold weather that set in overnight. The others who stayed home were the victims of a surprise pirate attack during their noon meal! A Resident’s daughter wrote up a short script that staff members acted out, bringing lots of laughs to all. There are certain comforts of home that our Residents can’t do without, even on a cruise, so on Tuesday afternoon we had a cash bingo, with a Norwegian supper in the evening.
After Norway, everyone put on their green and our boat headed to Ireland, and on Wednesday morning a Little Sister gave a short presentation about the Irish “troubles” before the ship docked for a traditional corned beef and cabbage dinner in the auditorium, complete with live entertainment by the husband of the Human Resources Director. In the afternoon everyone could relax and enjoy a video tour of the Emerald Isle, and in the evening the “Karaoke Lasses” led the travelers in a rousing hour of song and dance.
Thursday morning brought the spirit of competition out with a bowling tournament in the hallway outside the Physical Therapy department. We were on our way to Greece, where we would dock for a special dinner dance where everyone could wear the fancy dresses they had purchased in Paris on Monday. In the afternoon a Little Sister spoke about the “Separation of Christians East and West”, and after supper there was another favorite event, Bingo!
Before leaving Greece, we stopped in an Orthodox Church to see how it is different from our Western churches. Headed back to Italy, this was the day to dress in red. We finally arrived back in Rome, where everyone enjoyed an Italian buffet with live entertainment by singer Giovanni Antidormi. In the afternoon we watched the Holy Father’s Vesper service from Rome for the end of the Week of Prayer, and enjoyed a pizza supper.
We finally flew back home on Saturday, thanking God for all the blessings of the week and asking him to bring us ever closer to him and to one another.
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