Msgr. Farrell Students Holding Virtual Visits With Nursing Home Residents

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Nikolas Greenberg learned a common interest helps to close a generation gap between a high school teenager and nursing home resident. 

Greenberg, 17, is the founder of Msgr. Farrell High School’s Visiting Brother Society whose mission is to establish and build friendships with residents of Eger Health Care and Rehabilitation Center on Staten Island.

“I learned he liked to travel, and I like to travel,” Greenberg told CNY of Dominic, the Eger resident with whom he’s paired.

“We had a shared interest and it helped close the generation gap.”

Speaking of the Msgr. Farrell student, Dominic said, It’s been a great pleasure to meet someone at 17 years old who has filled my spirits. It is gracious of him to befriend me.”

Greenberg came up with the idea after participating with other students on Staten Island in a project for the Order of Malta in which students visited residents at Eger in 2018.

This was his original plan for the Visiting Brother Society, but the coronavirus pandemic changed this and students now have virtual visits with residents twice weekly.

There were 10 Msgr. Farrell students and 10 Eger residents enjoying virtual visits through FaceTime and Skype. Greenberg said three more students at the boys’ high school have joined the society and were waiting to be paired up with residents.

The students and residents discuss a range of topics such as current events like the coronavirus pandemic, how the students are continuing their studies at home, daily activities, family and common interests.

“It’s nice to see them face to face,” Greenberg said. “It’s like a real meeting.

“It’s something that was needed and is needed.”

Greenberg said his faith, family and Catholic school education inspired him to start the society.

“It had a huge impact,” he said. “You learn a lot about Jesus (at Msgr. Farrell) and the things He did. It inspires me to do things for others. I see Him in everyone.”

Stephanie Berman, director of therapeutic recreation at Eger, said the staff at Eger would ask residents beforehand if they’d like to be paired up with a student. During the pandemic, visitors are not permitted into nursing homes, but can have virtual visits with family and friends.

“The residents love it,” said Miss Berman of the Visiting Brother Society. “It’s someone to talk to. They really enjoy it. They have smiles on their faces.”

Father Jeff Pomeisl teaches religion to freshmen and sophomores at Msgr. Farrell, where he’s also school chaplain. He serves as the moderator for the society.

“The amazing thing is that the society doesn’t stand out that much,” Father Pomeisl said. “To outsiders it is pretty special to hear about teenage boys doing this stuff, but for us it’s just what we do at Farrell. One of our school mottos is a paraphrase of Christ’s words: do the right thing simply because it’s the right thing to do.

“One thing I enjoy is that I don’t have to do that much! Which means that I trust my boys to get it done—and they do.”

Lou Tobacco, president and CEO of Msgr. Farrell, added, “It is our mission at Monsignor Farrell to develop the whole man, a person aware of his own God-given talents, confident in his abilities, and oriented to the service of others. We educate them to be a Faithful Man, Vir Fidelis. The Visiting Brother Society is true faith in action, selfless service to others. I am so proud of this student-led and run initiative.”

Greenberg is graduating from Msgr. Farrell this year and plans to study biomedical engineering at Rowan University in New Jersey.

Greenberg, Father Pomeisl and Miss Berman believe the Visiting Brother Society will continue in the 2020-2021 school year. One day, they hope the students will visit the Eger residents in person when the pandemic ends.

“Seeing how everyone responded and their enthusiasm, I think it will continue and I want to help it continue to grow,” Greenberg said. “I don’t want the relationship with the resident to go away and I feel it will continue.”

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