Scarborough Retirement Centre marked its 25th anniversary Aug. 26 with a Hawaiian-themed party. Among the guests were, from left, local MP John McKay, who was welcomed by owners Harold Green, Fred Lafontaine and Josee Lafontaine. Photo by Evan Boudreau

Scarborough Retirement maintains strong Catholic ties throughout 25 years

By 
  • September 6, 2014

TORONTO - For the past 25 years Scarborough Retirement Centre has been providing Catholic seniors a like minded community where they can comfortably live out their golden years.

On Aug. 26 about 300 residents, family members and friends gathered for a Hawaiian-themed celebration to mark the milestone.

“It is very exciting for us to have this milestone,” said co-owner Josee Lafontaine. “We always position Scarborough (Retirement Centre) as a Catholic community but we do have some people of other faiths here as well.”

Catholicism has been embedded in the retirement home since it first opened its doors in 1989.

“We used to have the Sisters of Service and the Sisters of Precious Blood that used to live here,” La-fontaine said, noting each order had a designated floor. “Then their order had become so small that they had to go and find a different type of accomodation.”

Despite the sisters leaving Scar

borough Retirement Centre in the early 1990s, the place has never lost touch with the hand of God. Although St. Boniface parish sits directly across the street, resident Fr. John Donlin, ordained in 1984, holds Mass in the facility’s intimate consecrated chapel each morning at 9:15 a.m.

“I have about 25 people come to Mass every morning,” said the 77-year-old retired priest. “For those who can’t come down to Mass I bring communion around to them. They need it, they want it and I’m very willing to get in there and say here I am.”

It’s something that attracted Alma Harrison to Scarborough Retirement Centre.

“I love it here, it was the best decision I’ve every made; mainly because of my chapel,” said Harrison, whose 87th birthday coincided with the anniversary celebration. “Spirituality is here and that is terribly important to me. That was the deciding factor because I always went to Mass in my own parish and I didn’t want to give that up.”

Although Harrison is settled into her new environment, making the move about a year ago came only after years of nagging from her son Mike, who became concerned about his mother who had been on her own since her husband died 25 years ago.

“It is a great relief,” said Mike Harrison. “My mom had been alone for almost 25 years since my dad passed away. I was sort of encouraging her to leave the house but she really didn’t want to leave.

“It was a tough decision for her but it has turned out to be one of the best decisions of her life.”

Lafontaine said that is a typical story for seniors who live alone.

“There is a lot of loneliness with seniors that are living in their homes and living isolated,” she said. “When they live in a communal life they become more vibrant, their vitality comes alive and they need to make those connections to be emotionally, spiritually, mentally and physically healthy. So we find that a lot of people that move here after they have been in their homes actually do feel better.”

Beyond just the religious services, Lafontaine’s husband, co-owner Harold Green, noted a wide variety of activities are offered to keep everyone moving. These include daily arts programs, exercise classes and monthly evening activities that families can share in.

“All the things that you could want to get involved in we have here,” he said. “There are a lot of things going on every day. Even if you are a busy person you won’t be able to do it all.”

Fred Lafontaine, the patriarch of the family who got involved in the retirement home business 55 years ago, said he is proud to share in his daughter’s accomplishments and to celebrate the 25-year milestone with her. 

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