August 22, 2019
Senior care is the focus at St. John the Baptist Friary
BY TONI CASHNELLI
PHOTOS BY TONI CASHNELLIMichelle Viacava guides a senior friar back from a walk.
After a dessert of frozen fudge bars, friars go their separate ways, one doing his daily laps around the halls, most returning to their rooms for an afternoon of rest – all under the watchful eye of Province Nurse Michelle Viacava. What these men have, and most senior friars do not, is around-the-clock care in their own home.
If they need help managing medicines, doing laundry or making their bed, Michelle or a member of her staff is there to assist. If memory fails and they can’t find their way, someone gets them where they need to go. Vitals are Michelle with Niesha Chandlerchecked weekly by a nurse or nurse’s aide, and the in-house doctor comes once a month. In any kind of crisis, a tug on the wall-mounted call light in their room brings immediate attention.
Over the past two months, SJB Friary has been transformed – but not noticeably – with a coat of paint and shampooed carpeting. Cleared of weeds and cobwebs, the courtyard is equipped with rocking chairs and an outdoor dinette. Hall closets contain wound care supplies, an oxygen concentrator, wheelchairs and a lift apparatus. The windowed room up front has become an office where medical records, staff work schedules and daily medications are kept.
Designated a “senior care facility”, it’s still very much a friary.
Top, the front entrance; above, a window overlooking the courtyard.
Surrounded by acres of lawn and trees, the property is “like a nature preserve,” Michelle says. “There are deer and geese out back. It’s quiet and peaceful. Very Franciscan.”
In 1998, when this one-story friary with its 10 suites opened after extensive renovations, Provincial Building Coordinator Maynard Tetreault was thinking ahead. He made bathrooms wheelchair accessible and had handrails installed the length of the long hallways. Last year Michelle approached the Provincial Council with an idea for an assisted care facility at St. Clement. They ultimately decided that SJB Friary would need fewer renovations.
The Council approved the budget in mid-May. On June 1, “I was in here and setting it up,” says Michelle.
Niesha ChandlerHandrails have been there since the friary opened.
The bonus here is, “You get a lot of blessings,” says Michelle.
At SJB Friary, “There are five friars in the care rotation” who require various levels of physical help and memory care. “Some just need to be encouraged or reminded” when it’s laundry day or time for dinner. “Some are on quite a few medications,” all of which are monitored day and night by the nursing staff. “We can tweak the medicines or tell the doctor if the blood pressure goes down,” for example. “A lot of things are done in house,” including flu shots and some of the blood draws for lab work.
It’s “like a nature preserve,” Michelle says
She and her staff plan movie nights, picnics, yoga sessions and excursions with Tom Gerchak of the Office for Senior Friars, who also takes the men out for haircuts. There’s even a community pet, Fritzie. He (or she) is a robotic golden retriever puppy, acquired through the Alzheimer’s Association, which responds to touch and voice commands with yips and wriggles and is a special friend to friars with limited mobility.
“This is person-centered – not patient-centered,” says Michelle. It’s not about an ailment or an impairment. “It’s about them as a person. This is their home. You want it to feel homey.”
Fritzie responds to touch and voice commands.John Bok
As for Michelle, “I have a passion for this; it gives me a great purpose.” She is creating a model for compassionate care. But there is more. Working with these senior friars, “I feel like I’m gaining a new family. We sit together and share our day. We want them to feel that personal care and love.”
She thinks it is a fair exchange. “They give us their wisdom and their lives – and we help them when they need it.”
Nurse Michelle Viacava asks that you call ahead (513-769-1613; ext. 131) to visit friars in assisted living at St. John the Baptist Friary. The suggested hours are 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mass is at 8 a.m., “so no one is available then,” and dinner is from 5-6 p.m.
With Michelle working full-time at SJB Friary, Jim Nichols, a registered nurse with 40 years of experience, is taking over most of her visits to local friaries. Jim has worked in Hospice care, as an operating room nurse, and on the staff of the former Mercy Franciscan Terrace. He can be reached at 513-313-3696.
BY LOREN CONNELL, OFM
Monday, July 22, 2019
Holy Cross Cemetery, Escanaba, Mich.
PHOTO FROM LAKE VIEW CEMETERYTop: Where was Marian Douglas? Above, the entrance to Lake View.Holy Cross is a fairly large cemetery several miles from town. The terrain is flat with a few trees. A yellow brick entranceway welcomes visitors. The province does not have a stone or a plot of our own. Five of our brothers are buried in a section with other priests and religious, and that section itself is not specially marked. Marian Douglas is buried separately, apart from the other priests and religious. With the office closed for the day, I had no way of finding him. (If Marian is paying any attention to this, he is probably chuckling at having played such a trick on posterity.)
All of the stones are flat with the ground, but none are overgrown with grass like so many of them in Holy Sepulchre. Instead of grass, most have very hardy lichens growing on them. I brushed them as well as I could, but only Patrick McArron’s showed much improvement. Patrick’s, Kenneth Rouleau’s, and Antonine Brockhuis’ stones were all identical. Herman Joseph Hummeldorf, the first friar buried here, has a unique stone, as does Samuel Hermes, the last friar in this section.
We no longer live and minister in Escanaba, yet six of our brothers are buried here among the people that they loved and served, most of them several generations back. Who remembers them today? Who remembers that we ministered at St. Joseph Parish? How important is it? A loving God embraces them.
Tuesday, July 23, 2019
Lake View Cemetery, Calumet, Mich.
Today I visited Lake View Cemetery outside Calumet. Five brothers are buried in the friars’ plot there, from Ethelbert Harrington in 1956 to Camillus Hogan in 1994. It is worth noting that while Ethelbert is buried here, the northernmost cemetery in the province, his brother Bertin is buried in St. Roch’s, in New Orleans the southernmost cemetery in the province; and that Camillus, a lover of ice and snow who could never set the air conditioner cold enough, died on the winter solstice and gets a guaranteed blanket of snow every year.
Lake View is a pleasant site with rolling terrain and many trees. Someone had put flowers in front of the friars’ stone, a testimony to the affection that people had for them. The individual stones are flat with the ground, just as in Holy Sepulchre and Holy Cross. The ground slopes beneath Louis Rohr’s stone, which is tilted downward to the left. As in Holy Cross, hardy lichens cover parts of the stones. As in Holy Sepulchre, Camillus’ stone was slightly below ground level and partially covered with grass and soil. I brushed each stone, but lichens are tough.
With trowel and gloves I tackled the grass intruding on Camillus’ stone. Cleaning that stone was a joy. Buff, as he was called, and I lived together at St Julian Friary in Fort Wayne forty-some years ago. Those were tough years in the province. We younger friars thought that we knew everything worth knowing and were dismissive of older friars such as Buff. We did not understand him, he did not understand us, and none of us had the tools for breaking the impasse. Cleaning his stone was a way of connecting with, and appreciating, a long-lost brother.
I just got back from my Mom’s funeral in New York and I would like to express my gratitude to all the friars for their prayers and their many expressions of sympathy, My Mom’s health took an unexpected turn for the worse the week of July 29th which resulted in her entering Hospice care on Saturday, Aug. 3, where she died the next day.
As some of you know, I was an only child and she and I were very close. When she lived in New York the Province was very generous in allowing me frequent home visits to check in on her. After she moved close to me in Michigan four years ago I did my best to keep her happy to the best of my ability. Thank you, brothers!
–Al Mascia, OFM
A ‘Feud’ brought friars together
The Friars’ Chapel at SJB FriaryJust last week we heard that Martin Humphreys was feeling poorly. I decided to go over to St. John the Baptist Friary in Sharonville, where I was greeted by Michelle Viacava, the Province Nurse. When I’m with Michelle, I tend to slow down. She is peaceful by nature and calmly told me about Br. Martin’s condition.
Marty’s health has been declining. When I saw him, we talked about his symptoms a bit, and I asked him how he felt about his failing health. “Oh, I’m OK.” We sat for a time with quiet and Marty reminiscing about the best times in his life. I gently asked him about his tough times. In all of it, Marty was obviously still thrilled about the adventure of being a friar and the journey more and more into God. No deep theological theses. Just how all the hardships and the joys led him to become more connected at a deep level to God. We spoke about his many abstract paintings that dot the halls. He lit up. There’s a whole room full in his former studio.
As I spent some time around the friary, I noticed different friars doing various activities. When someone was more lost than usual, one of the nurses gently directed him back. I understand that there are picnics planned there, times for accompanied walks into nature, joint watching of favorite old-time movies.
Just a few months ago, Provincial Council asked if St. John the Baptist Friary might be open to having a section set aside for brothers who needed more intensive health care. They agreed. While there have been some rough spots in getting started, there seems to be a natural rhythm where our brothers are guided, as if by angels. Maybe it’s because I was around, but that nursing staff seemed particularly attuned to each personality. While I’m not yet ready myself, it did have the beauty, space and attention that I would hope for as I age.
— Fr. Mark Soehner, OFM
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Top, the front entrance; above, a window overlooking the courtyard.Several residents who are employed full- or part-time come and go, pursuing their regular schedules. As in the past, there’s a wall-mounted calendar of special events, a rec room stocked with a TV and recliners, and weekday dinners prepared in the kitchen of the adjacent St. Joseph Home, where the Sisters of Charity provide a loving environment for severely disabled children and adults.
She hired nine nurses and nurses’ aides like Niesha Chandler, formerly with Mercy Franciscan Terrace and the assisted living unit for the Franciscan Sisters of Handrails have been there since the friary opened.the Poor. “I’ve always worked somewhere that was a religious place,” says Niesha, who prefers “the more peaceful environment.”