The 2018 holiday season marked the 50th anniversary of a special intergenerational holiday tradition at Father Dowd. High school students from Westwood High School in Hudson/Saint Lazare brought holiday cheer, singing carols and bringing beautifully wrapped presents for each of our 134 residents. The residents were all smiles as they enjoyed the holiday songs, and opened up their gifts to help keep them warm over the winter months – items such as fuzzy blankets, warm slippers and soft toys. The students raised money for all the gifts, including a beautiful Christmas tree that they happily set up in the activity room for all to enjoy.
Father Dowd Recreation Technician Ray Cassell presented a plaque to the students at Westwood in appreciation of their visits and organized a buffet lunch for everyone. Ray has been maintaining the annual holiday visits with the students for the last 40 years!
“It just blows me away that this has been going on for the past 50consecutive years,” Ray says. “I don't know of any other home in Montreal that has had such a lengthy tradition.I find it so refreshing that young students are willing to take time out of their busy lives and put in the work it entails to make this annual visit so pleasurable for our residents.”
History of “The Father Dowd Project”
Father Dowd was honoured to welcome Richard McBrien back to the Centre. Mr. McBrien, a former schoolteacher in Pincourt started “The Father Dowd Project” 50 years ago, when he brought his Grade 4 students on a field trip to visit the residents of Father Dowd over the holidays in 1968. As Mr. McBrien pointed out, “Those children are now in their 60s!”
Richard McBrien was first inspired to bring young students to the residents at Father Dowd when his wife, Renée Major, met one of the residents at St. Patrick’s Basilica. The man held the door open for her, and told her he lived nearby (Father Dowd was originally located on de la Gauchetière Street).
After the residents enjoyed their one on one visits, Ray Cassell organized a buffet lunch for the students, including a special cake featuring a photo of students from the 40th anniversary visit. The cake was baked and hand decorated by Cynthia Soares, the team leader for housekeeping at Father Dowd.