Field Notes at the Holy Family Home

During a trip to the Holy Family Home in Philadelphia, I  sat down for a period of time and wrote down what I observed. Learning from our field note exercise in the student center earlier in the semester, I moved around and interacted with the environment. I came to notice things about this special place that I may not have otherwise noticed if I did not consciously look beyond the surface.

Here are a few pages of my “jottings,” from one of my jottings outings:

Transcriptions from a set of Jottings

For this particular outing, I arrived at the Holy Family Home around 9:00am. I had trouble finding a parking spot, as the buildings large lot was already full. I eventually found a spot in the back of the building, next to a gazebo and flower lined path.

Walking up to the main entrance, it is evident how much care put into the building itself. The grounds are beautifully landscaped and surrounded by a black iron fence. Everything has a place. Some pumpkins and hay bales line the entrance to the home. The automatic doors open.

An african american woman sits behind the desk wearing pink scrubs. She welcomes me brightly to the home as soon as I walk in. There is much activity within the lobby. One couch and two chairs rest in the waiting room. A white tile floor stretches from wall to wall in the entrance . This surface makes it easy for wheel chairs to move back and forth.

Ten people walk by during my short period in the lobby. Some nurses, some residents, some staff, and some Little Sisters of the Poor. One sister wheeled by in her white habit on her wheelchair.

HELLO. Everyone says hello, good morning, how are you. Beyond the simple salutation, they are followed by the names of those who they are directed at. “Good Morning Sister.” “Hello Maureen.” This space is a family, like a family lives in a home.

The home is incredibly clean. There is no hospital smell. Beyond this welcoming area, there is the “cappuccino” corner where residents gather for snacks or activities. A brown piano, television, tables, and the home store are in this area. The store sells snacks, cards, candy, and other basic necessities.

Within the elevator upstairs I am welcomed by an elderly woman and a staff member. She asked where I was from and explained where I was from. She wished me well, the doors opened, and I was on the third floor.

One of the dining halls was being prepared for the following meal. Staffers set the table with a green table cloth, spoons, forks, knives, and glassware.

Going into the chapel, There are residents in wheel chairs sitting in silence of prayer. The chapel has an upper area for residents to watch mass from an ariel perspective.

The exercise room is full of activity. Six residents occupy simple machines working out their arms and legs. Instrumental music plays in the background. All the movements stop when I walk in the room. I am introduced and they all say hi and wave.


The automatic doors open into the large chapel. To the left is the bowl full of holy water, and to the right, is the pews and altar. 9 rows of pews, split into four different sections. 






Tan square tile lines the floor. The space as all the characteristic elements of a catholic church (pews, books, stations of the cross, altar, candles, tabernacle, crucifix).

Sitting in the second row is a man wearing a white sweater and tan pants. Arms crossed, he sits in prayer. He looks directly up at the cross.

Resting above, in the back of the chapel, is a loft. Two women, both in wheel chairs sit there, looking down onto the chapel. The woman on the left is wearing a pink sweater, has white curly short hair, and sits with her eyes closed for the entire duration of my observations.

The other woman sits about 10 feet to her right, more alert. She is wearing a orange shirt and has a cloth shaw over her shoulders. She grasps a rosary in her hand and stares forward towards the altar. The position of her hands on the rosary switch every few seconds, and she occasionally will glance down at the red-beaded rosary.

No one speaks, out loud anyway. Three people sit in this space. The only noise recognizable is the faint creek of a ceiling fan in the back of the church. It is completely silent otherwise. As I leave the silence persists,


My time observing and taking jottings at Holy Family Home helped me look deeper at the culture that exists within the space. It is a culture of family and care. Everyone says hi to each other, just as one would to a family member.

The physical layout of the home is taylor made for ease of navigation for those in wheelchairs. These residents can get around the building, into ever corner, with great ease. This takes away stress.

The overall cleanliness of the space, and the amenities offered explains why everyone who lives here, loves living here. It is comfortable, it is pleasant, it is home.



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