Jun 10, 2014

UPDATED: Some sisters, offices to be moved from Mont Marie



(Iobserve file photo)

By Terence Hegarty

HOLYOKE – In a press release sent to local media at noontime today, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Springfield announced that approximately 30 retired sisters will soon move to residences in Holyoke, Boston and Framingham.

The moves are necessary, the press release states, to address the community’s ongoing financial challenges as it cares for aging and infirm sisters. The 30 sisters affected have varying needs, but are largely living independently in a building that has now become larger than is necessary to fulfill the needs of those sisters.

                                                                 (Photo by Terence Hegarty)

Sister of St. Joseph Maxyne Schneider (pictured at right), president of the congregation, in an exclusive iobserve interview June 10, said that the congregation’s administrative offices also will be relocated. Those offices are in the same building in which the approximately 30 sisters are living.

Sister Schneider told iobserve that the offices will move to the former Our Lady of Hope rectory in Springfield. “We are very grateful to Mary Mother of Hope Parish for offering us this space,” she said. “It’s one more example of how the diocese and the people of the diocese have come forward with generosity to help us in our need.”

She said that the timing of the move of the sisters and the offices is still unclear, but that both moves will likely take place over the summer. The future use of the building is also still unclear.

Sister Schneider said that the community is still exploring options for the reuse of the building. “We are in conversation with developers about how we can leverage this Mont Marie property.”

The Mont Marie Health Care Center and the two Housing and Urban Development housing facilities will continue to operate, Sister Schneider said. The decision to move the elderly sisters was made by the community as a whole, including the sisters who will be directly affected.

“It was a year ago that we announced publicly that we Sisters of St. Joseph of Springfield were facing a real financial crisis,” Sister Schneider said. She said that the changes announced this week are just some of the steps that have been, and will be, taken to address the fiscal problems.

“We have been doing a great number of things and one of those is to move our sisters to join others,” she said.

(Photo by Terence Hegarty)

She noted that the relocated sisters will still be living with other sisters in a religious environment, but said that the decision is a very solemn, sorrowful one.

“It’s a great loss for all of us,” said Sister Schneider. “Of course for the sisters who will actually be moving, for the sisters who will stay behind … (and) it’s also a loss on a symbolic scale.”

“We are a very close community,” she said. “We have spirit, we have care for one another and there is this sense right across the board that we will do this together, we will be present to one another. And, right along with that is the real sense of sadness.”

Sister Schneider said that the Sisters of St. Joseph are not alone in their fiscal and demographic challenges. Similar facility and community changes are happening in religious communities all across the country, she told iobserve.

Sister Schneider said that many of the future adjustments are still unclear, including specifically where some of the sisters who are now approaching retirement will reside.

Sisters who need extra care would still be able to reside at the health care center. It is expected, according to Sister Schneider, that some of the sisters who are now living independently, may need more care in the future and could move into the health care center, freeing up spaces for others in the various independent living locations.

“Since we announced our situation a year ago, everywhere we have turned, we have been met with generosity,” Sister Schneider said. “So, we know we’re going to have a solution to the next set of issues that faces us.”

The congregation, Sister Schneider said, will move forward. “I am so intensely proud of us, our congregation, to be able to do all the things we’ve done in the years together. But to face what we’re facing right now and to do it with a sense of strength and clarity, this is what we need to do, and we will do it with grace.”

“Our top priority is caring for our sisters, right along with being about our mission,” she said. “Caring for our sisters is something we will never, ever neglect.”

                                                  (Iobserve file photo)

The text of the June 10 press release follows:

“In an effort to address serious financial shortfalls, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Springfield are preparing to relocate several of their retired sisters from Mont Marie in Holyoke to new residences in Framingham, Milton and Holyoke, Massachusetts.

“The Boston Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph and the Daughters of the Heart of Mary of Holyoke have lovingly and generously offered space for approximately 30 sisters which will allow them to live with other sisters in community.

“It is important to note that the Sisters of St. Joseph of Springfield will remain an independent congregation of approximately 235 sisters with most of them remaining in their current residences and more than half remaining in the Springfield area.

“This move comes as the sisters continue to evaluate options to leverage the Mont Marie property. Doing so will help to close a financial gap and allow our retired and infirm sisters to live out the rest of their lives with care and dignity.

“We wish to emphasize that the Sisters of St. Joseph of Springfield will continue to minister to the people of Western Massachusetts and throughout New England.

“We also wish to make clear that the Mont Marie Health Care Center will continue to operate as a skilled nursing facility and that the two HUD-supported senior housing facilities, the St. Joseph Residence at Mont Marie and the Mont Marie Senior Residence, will continue to operate as usual. Sisters currently living in the health care center and in the senior residences will continue to do so.”

For more on this story, tune into an upcoming edition of “Real to Reel,” the Diocese of Springfield’s television newsmagazine that airs Saturday evenings at 7 on WWLP-22NEWS.