God has ordained from the beginning of time that work would be an essential part of human life. From Adam’s workplace in the Garden of Eden to Jesus’ workplace in Israel, we can see God’s design for us to bring glory to the name of God through our labor in the location where we are. For us in the 21st century, the work here at Villa de Matel is to embody the love of God as we work together with the Sisters.

Monday, December 5, 2022, Villa de Matel brought a start to a new job for me which wrapped itself together as exciting but also nerve-wracking, not knowing what to expect but still praying for the best and knowing to follow my soul as it knows the way. One of the first emails to arrive in my inbox was the invitation to the Villa de Matel Annual Christmas Party for the Associates held by the Sisters from Toni Stanford, a 30-year staff associate, Director of Human Resources, and instrumental in the preparation of the party. I point out Toni’s longevity in this writing as I later learned something about the incredible associates who work on this campus among the Sisters during my short time here at Villa de Matel.

Friday, December 9th, at 12:30 p.m., the Sisters and Associates gathered together in the Villa de Matel Chapel for a prayer service prior to the luncheon and celebrations. Having seen the Chapel only in pictures and a brief glimpse from the choir loft when Sr. Rose Scanlan so graciously toured me on my first day earlier in the week, truly had not evoked the feeling I experienced when I walked into the Chapel with its breath-taking artistry in every inch of the Chapel as I took my seat. The emotions I privately felt when Sr. Celeste Trahan extended a warm welcome to all the Associates attending along with the beautiful prayer service led by Jeannette Easley, Associate of 6 years and Director of RUAH, as I peacefully sat among the Sisters of the Congregation and my new co-workers, were similar to how others felt. Many souls were comforted on this day.

Following the prayer service Sisters and Associates joyfully processed down the middle aisle and walked over to the Dubuis Conference Center for a festive meal prepared by the Dietary team. This day was also saying “Happy Retirement” to Melanie Fletcher, who worked dedicatedly for 30 years in the Dietary department. Sr. Rachel O’Keefe, Villa Campus Administrator, led the luncheon celebration with her heartwarming stories and included the story of the Sisters always knowing when Melanie was in the kitchen on Sundays when they were served special entrees; a soft chuckle was heard from the direction of the Sisters tables acknowledging Sr. Rachel’s comments.

A second Retiree, Sondra Gaubatz, Executive Assistant Senior, provided nearly a combined 45+ years of service to the Sisters through her work-life journey. Sr. Rachel shared with the room of attendees that Sondra most recently returned after a temporary retirement phase to assist in the mentoring of a new associate in the all-important role she held for many years working closely with the Leadership of the Congregation. Both Melanie and Sondra were seated at their individual tables filled with their family and loved ones who were able to participate in the celebration of their retirement from Villa de Matel with their combined years of service of 75 years!

I believe talented employees succeed in environments where their work has purpose and meaning. I believe employees will flourish when leadership values their hard work and consistently defines why they’re doing it. Purpose and meaning are Villa de Matel’s soul and spirit – it is the reason behind the successes, and I witnessed it. As names and groups of associates were being honored for their years of dedicated service, I could not help but see how glorious this environment was when I saw the smiles on the Sisters’ faces and saw them rise to their feet in honor of the Associates being recognized. A beautiful plaque was presented to each associate as a reminder for them following the day’s celebration. In my observation, the vast number of years the Associates on this campus have given is truly remarkable in today’s world. How blessed we all are to have this passionate environment in which to work and to do it with the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word.

The final award presentation was for the Associate of the Year. Sr. Rachel provided yet another heart-warming introduction of the individual proclaiming all the wonderful contributions of the person without giving too much away and leading up to the anticipation of the Honoree’s name being announced. The room erupted into applause and cheers when Ignacio Ramirez, from the Maintenance department, was announced as the 2022 Associate of the Year with his 34 years of service on the campus of Villa de Matel. We only captured the staged photo of Ignacio being presented his award and sharing through my words to paint the picture of his announcement, that moment went like this: As Ignacio walked to the stage to be honored, I could see he was overwhelmed as other Associates greeted, hugged, and provided handshakes to him along his journey to the stage. I witnessed Sisters and the room full of associates all jumping to their feet erupting into cheers for Ignacio. It was such happiness, I believe, he will always cherish and remember.

As the Christmas party luncheon, an appreciation and celebration of years of service, came to a close, I saw within this room many faces committed to their work, fellow associates cheering for their peers’ accomplishments and so much appreciation by the Sisters you could not walk away from the afternoon luncheon and celebration without a full heart.

2022 Service Award Recipients – All pictured with Sr. Rachel O’Keefe

30 Years
Viktor Petrzala-Maintenance

25 Years
Carmen Rodriguez-Dietary
(Was unable to attend celebration No picture available)

10 Years
Claudia Gallardo-Dietary Martha Burak-Nursing
Rosalinda Gardea-Information Management

5 Years
Left to Right
Elizabeth Strausser-Literacy
Gloria Anaya-Dietary
Teresita Carmen Avedillo-Nursing
Yukari Waudby-Dietary

Was unable to attend celebration-Not pictured
Alicia Juarez-Nursing
Alexandra Molano-Finance
Reina Posadas-Nursing
Alma Zamarron-Nursing

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