May 13, 2022

Guild members enjoy ‘being and seeing Christ’ at St. Augustine Home

St. Augustine Home Guild member Kathy Smith, right, smiles with home resident Anne Wickens during a High Tea event the guild hosted for residents of the St. Augustine Home in Indianapolis on April 19. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

St. Augustine Home Guild member Kathy Smith, right, smiles with home resident Anne Wickens during a High Tea event the guild hosted for residents of the St. Augustine Home in Indianapolis on April 19. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

By Natalie Hoefer

It’s time for High Tea at the St. Augustine Home for the Aged, and the home’s guild members fuss over the residents like mother hens—pouring tea, serving cookies and striking up conversation. Their eyes radiate the smiles their face masks hide.

The April 19 event is one of the first in-person events the guild members have hosted for the residents since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020.

“It’s nice to be back to where we can talk with the residents and interact with them,” says guild president Beth Hansen.

Technically, the all-female St. Augustine Home Guild is a non-profit “dedicated to aiding the Little Sisters of the Poor in the operation of the St. Augustine Home in Indianapolis,” according to the guild’s website.

They accomplish this goal through volunteering, fundraising and hosting events for the residents.

But the essence of the guild is so much more, says Little Sisters of the Poor Mother Maria Christine Lynch, the home’s superior.

“They’re not just raising awareness or funds,” she explains. “They really are about relationship.”

‘It’s all about relationship’

For 55 years, guild members have been touching lives and forming relationships with the residents and the sisters of St. Augustine Home on the northwest side of Indianapolis.

“It’s a life-giving organization,” Mother Maria Christine said of the guild. “They have a sensitivity to the needs of older persons, and a real passion for our residents.

“With our Lord, it’s all about relationship. It’s this outreach to others. What they do is a combination of faith and action.”

Angie Bagnoli agreed.

“We all get something different out of what we do,” said Bagnoli, a 20-year member of the guild. “When you see a resident smile or they tell you a story, it makes you feel good and them feel good. And the sisters feel good that the residents have additional support.”

The guild found a way to provide that support even during the pandemic when in-person visits were not allowed.

Through a new Resident Companion Program, participating guild members were given a resident’s name, explained program creator Linda Bear.

“We would send them letters and little gifts, just to let them know we were thinking of them,” said the nine-year guild member.

“The isolation was so hard on them. We want to do anything we can do to be part of their lives.”

Resident Mary Rose Peyton appreciates the relationship she’s developed with guild member Nancy Stoltz through the program.

Now that COVID restrictions have lessened, Peyton said she and Nancy “go out to eat sometimes. Or she’ll come to my apartment, and we’ll play games or talk. We send each other cards and talk on the phone.

“It feels good knowing there’s someone out there you can talk to. She’s a very caring person.”

‘There’s so much love’

As restrictions lifted, guild members were excited to interact again in person with the residents.

“Going out there to make the beds and see the residents is a lot of fun,” said Hansen, one of the guild volunteers who weekly put fresh sheets and blankets on the beds of assisted living residents.

“A few weeks ago, a lady I was making a bed for said, ‘I look so forward to seeing you.’ It’s just a great benefit—they’re happy to see us and were happy to see them.”

Lu Ann Heitert explained with a laugh that volunteering in the guild’s “Little Store” gift shop in the home is “definitely hands on” as she helps residents try on donated clothes they can purchase for $1.

“I like helping them pick out greeting cards and clothes,” she said. “They talk about the family they’re buying the cards for. Or if they’re buying clothes, they tell you where they’re going to wear them. So you get to know them better by learning what’s going on in their lives.

“It makes me feel really happy that I can do something to make them happy, because that’s really the goal.”

The personal interactions result in a win-win, said Hansen.

“I know how much the residents enjoy seeing us,” she said. “But we probably learn more from them. So many of them, regardless of what their health problems might be, have such a positive way of looking at their situation.”

Even with behind-the-scenes activities, like “helping in the kitchen and even sorting canned goods, there’s so much love” behind what the guild does, said Bear.

That same care goes into the guild’s fundraisers.

“We always bring a busload of residents” to the guild’s annual Hats Off to Spring fashion show fundraiser, said Bear, who co-chairs the event. “The sisters dote on them, and we make sure they have a good time.

“It’s a passion that we have, even in fundraising, that we want to do everything we can to help the residents and the sisters.”

‘You can see God in their attitude’

The residents feel that passion.

“They’re figuratively embracing, like you feel their arms around everyone here,” said Tom Wickens. He and wife Anne, married for almost 62 years, have lived in an apartment at St. Augustine Home for five years.

“They always take time to visit with you,” Anne added. “It feels good to be recognized as a person and as a friend.”

And they keep the residents active, said Peyton.

“They have a lot of events they put on for us,” she said. “All the holidays, they seem to jump in and say, ‘This is for you!’ ”

She especially likes the monthly Bingo games sponsored by the guild.

“I go there, and I know all of them, and they know me—I’m kind of a serious Bingo player,” she said with a laugh.

Tom appreciates how the guild members make the residents feel valued.

“In conversation with one a while ago, I mentioned that I really like to drive,” he recalled. “She said, ‘Would you like to be a volunteer driver?’ So now I’m a volunteer driver! I drive the sisters and take people to appointments.”

Peyton, too, has been recruited by the guild members to help. Spoiler alert: the following paragraph reveals her secret identity!

“Every year at Christmastime, the guild buys little presents for all the residents, like Kleenex, candy, pens and little pads of paper, things like that,” she said.

“Then they give them to me and at night, when everyone is sleeping, I go around and hang the gift bags on everyone’s doors. I feel just like Santa Claus!”

On a more serious note, Peyton voiced her gratitude for the guild.

“I appreciate everything they do,” she said. “They think about us, and they’re here for us if we need them. They’re just great to have around.”

Anne agreed.

“You can see God in their attitude toward all of us, in their service,” she said. “They’re like the sisters: gracious, joyful, kind, compassionate.”

‘When you lift hearts, your heart is lifted’

There is one person behind everything the guild members do for the residents and the Little Sisters, said Bear. That person is Christ.

“We talk about being Christ and seeing the face of Christ in the residents,” she said. “When they take your hand and ask for help, you’re helping Christ. Christ becomes visible when we give, and it comes back to us in their gratitude and happiness.

“It’s in giving that we receive, and in loving that we’re loved. That’s why we have the guild.

“When you lift hearts, your heart is lifted, and I’m just happy to be part of this family.”

(For more information on the St. Augustine Home Guild, their events, to join or to donate, go to To stay up-to-date with the guild, follow them on Facebook at

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