Work is well under way for Presentation Manor in Toronto’s east end. Illustration courtesy of Providence Manor

Elder care manor appeals to both religious orders, lay people

  • January 12, 2017

A new and very Catholic concept in elder care has moved from dream to reality with a move-in date projected for the fall of 2018.

Backed by the financial participation of 21 religious orders and the Archdiocese of Toronto, Presentation Manor will be much more than a home for aging sisters, brothers and priests, said project leader and Basilian general superior Fr. George Smith.

Religious men and women, along with lay people — single and married — will share a common life that includes prayer, sacraments, friendship and hospitality at the residence, located in Toronto’s east end, north of Providence Healthcare.

“Right from the very beginning, when we were able to buy that property, that was a sign from God that we were on the right track,” Smith told The Catholic Register.

Planning for Presentation Manor began in 2011 when leaders of several religious communities got together to discuss the challenges in caring for aging members. Many orders have traditionally maintained their own assisted-living arrangements and infirmaries for frail elderly members.

“We can see that our numbers are going down. Our people are dying,” explained Smith.

If a religious order builds a residence with assisted living for 20 or 30 of its members, what happens when there’s only four or five of those residents left?

“The cost of running the building doesn’t decrease as the numbers decline,” Smith said.

Instead, Presentation Manor’s 229 suites will start off with about 70 per cent of residents coming from religious orders — nuns, priests or brothers. Gradually, over the next 20 or 25 years, that mix will flip and 70 per cent of residents will be married or single lay people.

Over the life of the community, the religious order founders of Presentation Manor hope to demonstrate a new model of Catholic community life, said Smith. Smith thinks of Presentation Manor in terms of “collaborative ministry,” where members of different religious orders — each with their own history, traditions and culture — combine to create a common approach to Christian life.

Lay people will bring with them the experiences of married life, raising children and careers.

“It allows us to witness to celibacy in a new and very healthy way,” said Smith. “So that younger people in the Church can see that women and men can live together in a vocationally celibate way and it can be healthy. That’s a very important part of this project.”

Despite keeping very quiet about Presentation Manor over the last five years, Smith has already begun to field calls from lay people looking for a Catholic setting in their retirement years. The first question is always, “Is there going to be Mass every day?”

“I assure them that with about 100 or so priests living there, we’re going to have lots of Masses.”

In fact, the residence will have a main chapel that seats 150 and eight other small chapels — two on each floor.

“We have allotted a significant square footage to community space,” said Smith. “That goes way beyond what any other competitors in the industry would offer.”

Beyond the chapel there’s a dining room, pool, exercise room, a craft and activity room, a bar, games room and movie theatre, a multipurpose room and more.

With 51 assisted living units and 178 independent living suites in one, two and studio configurations, Presentation Manor is not a nursing home.

“We won’t duplicate the services of Providence Healthcare,” said Smith.

All suites in the four-floor residence include walk-in showers and a coffee nook.

Similar residences for multiple religious orders are already operating in Saskatoon, Winnipeg and Montreal.

The name of the new Catholic residence comes from the presentation of Jesus at the temple to first Simeon then Anna, elders who recognized the infant Jesus.

“Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word,” says Simeon in the second chapter of Luke. “For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples.”

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