Celebrating ‘A Neighborhood of Care’ in DuarteOriginally Published in The Tidings Online


Written by Brenda Rees

When the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart celebrate the Sept. 8 opening of the first assisted-living cottage of their innovative Neighborhood of Care with an official blessing, of this state-of-the-art facility, it will mark a new page for the their Santa Teresita campus in Duarte.The Craftsman-inspired cottage, about one year in construction, signals a new model of eldercare which the sisters are embracing, a prototype much needed in today’s cultural milieu.“When we open the doors of the First Assisted Living Cottage, we are opening the door to a much-needed, new model of health care for seniors who are often underserved, vulnerable and at-risk,” says Carmelite Mother Judith Zuniga. “The Grand Opening celebration is a statement of our Catholic moral values and ethical principles — loud and clear.”Called “The Rose Gardens at Santa Teresita: A Neighborhood of Care,” the planned series of cottages will eventually dot the landscape of the 12-acre campus located in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains. Each level of the two-story cottage will accommodate 10 or 11 people in a home-like setting. Common areas include a kitchen (where residents help plan meals), dining area, living room, den, outside patio and barbecue area as well as meandering walkways through the gardens.This cottage — LEED-certified, constructed with green materials and practices — is the first of seven to nine cottages proposed for the site; construction on the next is slated to begin in a few months.

“We call this a ‘Neighborhood of Care,’ because we envision seniors living together as a loving warmth of a family in our cottages,” says Carmelite Sister Timothy Marie who — while walking through the spacious grounds — points out the various amenities and activities that will be a part of the seniors’ experience.

“We’ll have a Senior University where there will be classes and workshops, and interactions with the young children from the on-site Hayden Child Care Center. Each senior can choose also to take part in our daily Masses, devotions, rosary and Bible study groups. We also have nursing and pastoral care internships here. All in all, we want to provide companionship for our seniors in a caring environment.”

Providing quality healthcare has always been paramount to the Carmelite Sisters who arrived as religious refugees in Southern California, escaping persecution from Mexico in the late 1920s.

The Duarte campus first served the community as a tuberculosis sanitarium and was later transformed into an acute care facility in the 1950s. The hospital added its skilled nursing facility in 1964; the campus expanded in 1981 with a five-story professional office building and again in 1986 with expanded surgery and emergency departments.

But economic changes in 2004 pointed to new directions for the sisters who closed the doors of their acute care hospital. The assisted living and skilled nursing buildings, however, remained open.

As a result, through prayer and discernment, the sisters began to envision a continuum of care for seniors as an alternative in response to the need for life-affirming alternatives in senior healthcare. The sisters realized that the best way to serve the community was to build a continuum of healthcare for seniors where life would be lived to the fullest.

Their master plan, completed in 2009, outlined the restoration of specified buildings, together with their assisted living and skilled nursing components. Fueled with the help of foundations and individual donors, the $8.4 million restoration, completed in 2012, restored and renovated the St. Joseph Chapel and Madonna Hall Community Center, including the skilled nursing and assisted living areas of the campus. It also demolished 75 percent of the older hospital wings.

Following the restoration, the sisters moved on to the next phase of the master plan: the building of the first assisted living cottage of The Rose Gardens at Santa Teresita. Soon, rose gardens will intertwine and connect cottages.

To no one’s surprise, the rose — the symbol of Carmelite Sister St. Therese of Lisieux — figures prominently on the campus, notably in the stained-glass windows, tiles, woodcarvings, plaques, paintings and flower arrangements.

Pointing out the many roses that are found in the newly remodeled St. Joseph Chapel, Sister Timothy Marie tells the story of St. Therese who, as she lay dying of tuberculosis, said, “After my death, I will let fall a shower of roses. I will spend my heaven doing good upon the Earth.”

“Roses on Earth, God’s graces … that is what we want to remind people of daily — that God is here with them, they are not alone,” says Sister Timothy Marie. “The Rose Gardens fits in so well with that mission. Roses are always with us.”

The Rose Gardens at Santa Teresita’s Grand Opening Celebration is scheduled Sept. 8, 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m., at 819 Buena Vista, Durate. Information: (626) 408-7802 or www.santa-teresita.org.