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Thursday, 04 August 2011 04:31

Mercy ministries live on at St Peter’s

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While St Peter's residential aged care service at Lane Cove North on Sydney's north shore is a brand new building it incorporates some of the traditions and elements of aged care ministries previously run by the North Sydney Mercy Sisters.

Each floor of the four-level building has been named after a Mercy Sister - Joanne Kirk RSM, Margaret McGovern RSM, Josephine Byrnes RSM and Mother Justinian Scollen RSM - who had or continue to play a major role in health and aged care.

Sister Joanne is the chair of the trustees of Catholic Healthcare, and as congregational leader oversaw the transition of the Sisters of Mercy aged care services - Justinian House, McQuoin Park, Mercy Community Care and Mercy Arms - to Catholic Healthcare in 2004.

Sister Margaret McGovern OA (1932-2003) was a consultant on aged issues and a member of the NSW State Executive of the Council for the Ageing.  A leader in her field, Sister Margaret was responsible for the development of many services for the aged, including the establishment of McQuoin Park, Waitara, Mercy Community Care and Mercy Arms.

As leader of the North Sydney Mercy Sisters, Sister Josephine Byrnes was responsible for the establishment of Justinian House in 1986. The Crows Nest hostel for older people was named after Mother M Justinian Scollen who was the matron of the Mater Hospital from 1919 to 1962.

While many were sad when Justinian House had to close in 2007 as it did not meet government aged care building regulations, important elements of the community were saved from demolition and live on at St Peter's.

The altar, tabernacle, lectern, stained glass and chairs from the Justinian House chapel are now part of the new chapel at St Peter's.  Some of the first people to move into St Peter's were former residents at Justinian House.

Chris Rigby, Managing Director of Catholic Healthcare, said incorporating some of this history into St Peter's was a way of providing a connection with the service and care of the Sisters of Mercy, and acknowledging their significant role in this area.

He said Margaret McGovern was a pioneer in aged care and community care in Australia.

"She started the Mercy Family Centre and Mercy Arms at Waterloo and she was on many government committees. Her vision and those of the other three sisters lives on at St Peter's."

Sister Jenny Ryan RSM, Leader of the Sisters of Mercy North Sydney said she was very pleased that the contribution of members of her congregation has been acknowledged and honoured at St Peter's.

She said St Peter's was a unique aged care development as it integrates seniors living with broader community life.

St Peter's is part of an innovative village-style community called St Peter's Green, which includes 27 independent living units, a Willoughby Council branch library with meeting rooms, a cafe, landscaped outdoor areas and a toddlers' playground.

It was built on the former site of St Peter's Catholic Church, an outreach church of Our Lady of Dolours Parish at Chatswood. In 2006 the Broken Bay Diocese demolished the church and put the 0.7 hectares of land bordered by Mowbray Road and Felton Avenue up for sale. In early 2007, Catholic Healthcare secured a 99-year lease on the land from the Diocese of Broken Bay.

St Peter's offers private rooms with ensuites for 93 residents with low, high and dementia care needs. Each floor of the four-level building has a number of beautifully furnished sitting areas, a dining area with servery and spacious balconies or courtyards. It caters for all financial situations with 20 per cent of rooms available to those with no assets.

St Peter's service manager is Annette Coulthart, who for seven and a half years ran Karlaminda, home for the older members of the Society of the Sacred Heart order in Kensington.

She said the focus at St Peter's is on the individuality of each person, family involvement and encouraging as much independence as possible.

"Spiritual and pastoral care is integral to this place as is hospitality with a emphasis on presentation of meals, table settings and a genuine welcoming of residents, their families and friends.

"Keeping people social is also important," Annette said.

"The cafe and library add that social side. The people living here see and hear different age groups — the sounds of children playing, people chatting over coffee and cake, returning books to the library, so they are still be part of something that is really vital — not behind some high wall disconnected from everyday life. So it's quite exciting being part of this unique and special community."

Mr Rigby added that St Peter's was another step in a vision and program committed to by Catholic Healthcare in 2003 to build or rebuild its residential aged care services to a standard that enhances the dignity and quality of life of the residents.

Have your say...

"What a wonderful contribution to aged care. Makes me so proud to be a Mercy - such a wonderful story and I am sure not without all the heartache that goes with a project like this. However the joy of seeing it in "full bloom" and bringing quality of life to the residents would be fulfilling."
- joan Smith, 26-08-2010

"Congratlations! What a truly gracious Mercy Story. Thank you for all that has been accomplished for our Aged."
- Andrina Ryan, 26/08/200, 26-08-2010

"How fortunate to have the compassion and mercy of the founding sisters carried forward by someone as compassionate and competent as Annette. Many blessings on all."
- Vianney Hatton sss, 30-08-2010