Catholic Free Press

Catholic Free Press Digital Edition

  • Jul
  • 19

Auburn parish opens affordable senior housing

Posted By July 19, 2012 | 1:13 pm | Lead Story #1
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By Laura Lambert

Members of the North American Martyrs community in Auburn gathered last Saturday to celebrate the dedication of their newest addition to the parish campus.
Under the direction of its pastor, Father  John F. Gee, the Auburn parish took on the responsibility to serve its elderly by working to provide affordable senior housing.  Through collaboration with Housing for Urban Development (HUD), North American Martyrs parish has worked diligently since 2004 to construct the federally-funded Kateri Tekakwitha Senior Housing Facility.
The new housing facility will open its doors to residents on Aug. 1, offering 30 one-bedroom apartments.  According to Jenn Snell, an employee for Elder Services of Worcester, the residence offers three handicap accessible apartments, a first-floor hair salon, a first-floor full kitchen for parties and group events, and a large first-floor community room.
“The building provides for the physical and cognitive needs of its residents,” Snell explained.  “For example, the floors are color coded, so if someone is having trouble remembering what number floor they live on, they can recognize where they are based on the color.”
Ginny Given, who is employed by Maloney Properties of Wellesley, Mass., is ready to fulfill her new roles as property manager and resident coordinator.  “I have both the boring and fun jobs here,” she joked.  “I will be taking care of rents and maintenance, but will also be planning activities, advocating for services and interacting with residents.”  Given expressed her excitement saying, “It’s going to be wonderful.”
The dedication event was attended by Bishop McManus and Bishop Reilly.  Both took the opportunity to express their joy and appreciation for ministry to the elderly.  The dedication ceremony was followed by a blessing of the building and a barbecue attended by many parishioners and prospective tenants.
Bishop McManus mentioned the importance of observant and servant pastors.
“One distinguishing character of a true pastor is a priest who knows the needs of his parishioners, in this case, the needs of senior citizens.  No doubt, many who live here will be Catholic and it is fitting that they should be able to continue to be close to their parish even in their old age,” he said.
Bishop Reilly showed his enthusiasm for the project in simple words.  “All I want to say is ‘Wow, this is really something.’ I knew when this was started that it was not going to be an easy task…  It takes persistence to stay with it…” he said.  He explained the benefit of available and affordable elderly housing through his understanding of homelessness.  “I know from working with homeless communities, how terrible it is for someone to wonder if they will have a home five or six years from now.”
Father  Gee spoke simply of recognizing a need and working to fill it.  “We knew Auburn needed senior housing and we had the land.  This couldn’t have happened if the parish wasn’t behind it, but people saw the need and have been supportive.”  While not many parishioners were directly involved, he explained, people showed their interest in other ways, such as touring the building during the open house.  Although the project was, at times difficult, he explained that ultimately, “Knowing that 30 people now have homes is very rewarding.”
Father Gee spoke of God’s gentle, guiding hand throughout the project.  “We were waiting for construction to start.  I was getting ready for Mass, wondering when the workers would come.  On Tuesday, October 19, 2010, on the feast of the North American Martyrs, trucks rolled in and it was completely unplanned.  And only three months from now, after 20 years of praying for the canonization of Kateri Tekakwitha, she will be a saint.”