Father Jacob Ong dances with a couple of elderly to Christmas carols . (Below) Members and volunteers from the 5 Barley Loaves N 2 Fish ministry at Novena Church busy themselves serving food and companionship to the 60 elderly they invited for a Christmas party; Photos by Joyce Gan

SINGAPORE – The area behind the canteen at Novena Church was painted a sea of red and white on the evening of Sunday Dec 6, when the ministry of 5 Barley Loaves N 2 Fish organised a Christmas party for some 60 old folks from Toa Payoh.

Aged 82 to 92, these elderly reside in one-roomers at Toa Payoh Lorong 5; some have been abandoned by their children, while others are widowed.

But age and life circumstances notwithstanding, they were all clapping, singing and feasting during the party. Entertainment for the night included performances by about 20 children from the Infant Jesus Homes and Children’s Centers; Teochew songs, Christmas carolling and a lucky draw that saw many old folks beaming as they collected their prizes.

Among the 60 elderly were 10 Muslims, who received specially prepared Halal food.

The evening’s highlights also included Father Jacob Ong, CSsR, dancing with three of the elderly folks as well as dressing up as Santa Claus to distribute presents before they assembled in their buses to Orchard Road.

“Father Jacob says to bring them out since they are always at home, so we’re taking them to see Christmas lights at Orchard Road!” said Julie Lim, main coordinator of 5 Barley Loaves N 2 Fish.

Since July this year, 5 Barley Loaves N 2 Fish – an extension of the Divine Mercy group at Novena Church – has been visiting the old folks on weekends.

The group was born when, during a church service, Father Jacob appealed for volunteers to care for these elderly after he learnt that Willing Hearts, a soup kitchen that prepares and distributes meals to the needy in Singapore, needed help to feed them.

The church group now has 18 volunteers and is hoping to rope in more young members, as most of the existing ones are senior citizens.

The volunteers provide meals, take care of the old folks’ specific needs such as transport to doctor’s appointments, and also gather the Catholics among the elderly in one home to pray the Divine Mercy together.

On the feastday of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, the group brought them to Novena Square for lunch, and then to see the decorations at Novena Church.

Willing Hearts started in 2003 with 10 parishioners from Church of St. Michael, to provide at least a simple meal to the elderly in need. Today, 200 members and 20 volunteers distribute as many as 1,200 meals daily.

By Joyce Gan
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