I am writing this from St. Theresa’s Motherhouse of the Carmelite Sisters of the Aged and Infirm near Germantown, New York. This beautiful piece of property with its stately mansion was purchased by the foundress of this community of religious women, Mother Angeline Teresa McCrory, O. Carm. in 1947 for $46,000 and has served in the intervening years as the Generalate for this branch of Carmelite Sisters who trace their way of life to St. Theresa of Avila. September 3, 2009 marked the eightieth anniversary of the founding of the Carmelite Sisters of the Aged and Infirm whose major ministry, indeed their only ministry, is to the care of the aged, sick and infirm. The eighty-six acre property sits on the east bank of the Hudson River with the Catskill Mountains rising beautifully in the not too distant west. Mother Angeline was the head of the congregation which she founded in 1929 until her death in 1984, an astounding fifty-five years and she watched over the growth of these wonderful nuns from the early few to a high of about 350 sisters (there remain about 180 sisters). Born in Ireland and raised in Scotland where her father was a coal miner, she originally entered the Little Sisters of the Poor in France but when sent to the United States, she came to realize a need for a different form of ministry to the sick and dying, received permission from the Holy See to leave the one congregation and found this new community of women.
Mother Angeline had a great love for the priesthood and for priests and thus many of their long term care facilities today are home to aging priests often without families or those who simply need long term care. In her lifetime she became friends with many bishops and priests, including in our Florida history, Archbishops Joseph P. Hurley of Saint Augustine and Coleman F. Carroll of Miami. The sisters have a large long-term care facility on Palm Beach island called the Nora McKeen Residence and I was able to spend some time with Sister Mary Fidelis, O. Carm., who headed that facility for a number of years. At Christmas in 1941, Mother Angeline wrote these words of suggested prayer to her sisters: “Jesus, I pray Thee for thy faithful and fervent Priests laboring at home or abroad in distant mission fields; for Thy tempted priests; for Thy lonely and desolate Priests; for Thy young priests, for Thy aged Priests; for the souls of Thy priests in Purgatory. But above all I commend to Thee the Priests dearest to me: the Priest who baptized me; the Priests who absolved me from my sins, the Priests at whose Masses I assisted and who gave me Thy Body and Blood in Holy Communion. The Priests who taught and instructed me or helped me or encouraged me; all the Priests to whom I am indebted in any other way, Particularly Father _______. O Jesus keep them all close to Thy Heart, and bless them abundantly in time and eternity. Amen.” So how did I get here at the Mother House since I am neither aged (I lie) or infirm (I do not lie)?
Sister Peter Lillian of this community serves on the board of the Catholic Health Association with me and she asked if I would come to celebrate Mass and preach at a three day annual convening called the Avila Institute for Gerontology wherein leadership from all their facilities around the midwest, eastern and southern parts of the United States would attend. I could never turn Sister Peter down in a million years so here I am on the banks of the Hudson in eighty degree Fall weather with the leaves just beginning to change. This is a challenging time for nursing homes and longterm care facilities around the US and in particular to the sisters’ mission. Reimbursement formulas will change as a result of the Affordable Care Act and I believe it could have ominous consequences for facilities like those which the sisters run. Those in attendance are learning first hand of those consequences during this meeting and how they might most effectively be met. My role is to offer daily Mass and preach briefly plus I had two lesser duties assigned to me as well.
I flew Sunday night after a late morning confirmation at Blessed Sacrament parish, Seminole, to Albany, New York. I was surrounded by people returning to Albany. Several asked me where I was going and when I said “Germantown” they replied “where is that?” For the first time in my life I drove a rental car down the New York State Thruway (scary piece of concrete) and after about forty miles the GPS in my iPhone finally announced, “Exit in two miles to the right. Turn left and follow the signs to Sleepy Hollow.” I crossed the Rip Van Wrinkle Bridge over the Hudson and began my lookout for the Headless Horseman or maybe even Ichabod Crane. Seeing neither I soon passed an intersection which contained two gas stations on two of the four corners and two banks on the other two and a sign which said, “Leaving Germantown.” I have no memory of entering Germantown. Nonetheless I found the entrance to Motherhouse and have been very well cared for since. It has been a delightful two days and three nights but today it is back to St. Petersburg, work, and no headless horseman again, I hope.
Tags: Avila Institute for Gerontology, Catholic Health Association, Germantown New York, Mother Angeline Teresa McCrory O. Carm, Photo, Sister Peter Lillian, St. Theresa's Motherhouse of the Carmelite Sisters of the Aged and Infirm