Pictured from left: Maureen Erdlen SSJ, Regina Bell SSJ, Anne Myers SSJ — Congregational President, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., D.D., Dorothy Apprich SSJ — Executive Director Saint Joseph Villa, Eileen Marnien SSJ — Congregational Vice President and Teresa Shaw SSJ.

by Brendan Sample

To commemorate 50 years of providing live-in healthcare to retired sisters of Saint Joseph of Philadelphia and laypeople in the community, the St. Joseph Villa will hold a gala and fundraiser on Sunday, June 24 at the Whitemarsh Valley Country Club. The gala, which is by invitation only, will also serve as a closing to the 50th anniversary celebrations, which began on September 17 with a special liturgy mass celebrated by Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput.

The gala has been in the works for quite some time, as the Villa established a Steering Committee that has been working on it for nearly two years. One of the chairs of the committee, Dr. John Scanlon of Chestnut Hill Hospital, has been involved with the Villa as a physician since 1986. After the sisters of St. Timothy Roman Catholic Church helped to raise him from the age of six, Scanlon has a deep personal attachment to the sisters of Philadelphia

“It’s a true pillar of healthcare in the community,” said Scanlon of the Villa. “The sisters really put their heart and soul into their care, which makes it a truly unique place. They’re truly invested, which separates it from other places in the community.”

The first St. Joseph Villa actually opened in 1908 in Cheltenham. It stayed there for more than 50 years, but the township’s zoning regulations restricted them from making needed expansions to the facility. As a result, plans began in the early 1960s for a new Villa in Flourtown, which officially opened in June 1968. The facility initially continued to only take in retired sisters, but ultimately opened its doors to anyone in the community needing nursing care in 1981, and has not closed them since then.

Though the Villa has stayed true to its mission, it has had to adapt to changing times and demands, most recently with a series of major renovations that were finished in time for the September liturgy. The renovations were focused on making the feel of the facility less institutional and more like a home than it had been throughout its history. This change in atmosphere has proven to be a major positive change for the people living there, particularly for the retired sisters.

“The Villa now looks less like a hospital and more like a set of community neighborhoods,” said Cecilia Rupell, Communications Director for the Sisters of St. Joseph. “Community is very important for Catholic sisters. By improving the quality of gathering spaces, they’re gathering more than they ever have before.”

The Sisters of St. Joseph have been in the city since 1847, and with a newly renovated facility and a consistent need for in-home healthcare, the upcoming gala looks to potentially mark the beginning of a new chapter in the Villa’s history.

“Our biggest hope is that we’ll continue to be flexible and responsive to emergency needs,” said Sister Kathleen Pales, SSJ Director of Development, whose office is sponsoring the gala. “We recently opened a short-term rehab wing for people recovering from joint replacement, surgery, etc. We’re always looking to see what new needs are coming up on the horizon, and how we can respond and ultimately help more people.”

For more information on St. Joseph Villa, visit www.stjosephvilla.org.