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Residents of Largo retirement community celebrate Easter, Passover without having to travel

They are different people with different faiths, but they share a commonality. Each is celebrating their religion's holiest of seasons, Easter and Passover, together, at Pinecrest Place.

Barbara Reilly, a lifelong Roman Catholic, pushed her walker from her apartment at the retirement community to the lobby of Pinecrest Place, which sits next to the Pinellas Trail on Eighth Avenue SW.

The 88-year-old wanted to receive communion and celebrate Palm Sunday, but she did not feel strong enough to travel to a church for Mass.

Tom McAvoy, an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion from St. Patrick Catholic Church, greeted her in the doorway. He visits Pinecrest Place at least once a week to bring the Sacrament of the Eucharist to those unable to travel.

When Reilly was ready, he served her Communion and prayed with her. After a few moments, he helped her to her feet and presented her with a palm.

On Monday, Rebecca and Abraham Bodenstein, who moved from Dunedin two weeks ago, attended a Seder with 12 other residents in the northwest corner of Pinecrest's formal dining room.

Pete Kristall, a volunteer whose wife, Marge Kristall, is the business office manager at Pinecrest, led the Passover celebration. The occasion was the first time the Bodensteins gathered with other Jewish residents.

There are 450 people who call Pinecrest Place home. Two residential towers include apartments for both independent living as well as assisted living.

"I call the residents at Pinecrest the old guard,'' said McAvoy, 82. "They are of the generation that truly keeps their religion in the forefront of their daily life and when I see them come down from their rooms to receive Communion as dressed up as if they were attending a church, I myself am inspired.''

The management also recognizes that so many of the residents consider their faith top priority, according to Diana Baldwin, program manager. "Sometimes religion is even more important to a person as they age,'' Baldwin said. "A main goal is to make sure residents know that when they come to Pinecrest, they'll continue to grow and learn in life. In other words, we want their story to continue here.''

Resident Alice Smith helps direct a Thursday Bible study group. She believes simply being with so many people of different faiths is a learning opportunity, and although it is important to remember the unwritten rule to respect an individual's religion and politics, Smith appreciates seeing some residents pray before their meals.

"I don't see prayer always, but I do appreciate it when I do see it,'' said Smith, 84. "And I see having different faiths together as a good thing because we can learn even more about religion from each other.''

To help the Jewish residents celebrate Passover, Baldwin has come to rely on the Kristalls, who have held the Seder at Pinecrest Place on the first night of Passover for the past seven years.

Pete Kristall's family fled Nazi Germany when he was a newborn. "I learned the Seder from my Uncle Leo. I grew up in his house in Buffalo, N.Y.,'' said Kristall, 70.

With his self-written Haggadah (a guide to the Seder) in hand, Kristall directed the ceremonial meal. James Puchel, head of dining services for Pinecrest Place, followed his lead. After each blessing, he served the courses — the gefilte fish, the matzo, beef brisket, vegetables, fruit and strawberry sponge cake for desert.

The Seder inspired Rebecca Bodenstein, 87, to continue to meet others at Pinecrest who are active in Judaism. "I appreciated the efforts they made with holding a Seder,'' said Bodenstein. "And you know what the dinner did for me? It's got me thinking about getting involved in helping with next year's.''

Fast facts

About Pinecrest

Pinecrest Place, 1150 Eighth Ave. SW, is a retirement community with 450 residents. It has apartments for both those who live independently as well as for those who need assistance.

Residents of Largo retirement community celebrate Easter, Passover without having to travel 04/03/10 [Last modified: Saturday, April 3, 2010 1:07pm]
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