Sr. Marie Donovan is given a welcoming hug by fellow Our Lady’s Missionary Sr. Gwen Legault as she settles into a new life in Presentation Manor. Photo by Michael Swan

Seniors from religious communities among the first to move in to Presentation Manor

  • November 23, 2018

For 10 of the 32 years Sr. Rosemarie Donovan lived in Nigeria, she lived in a poor rural village. She had a one-room house. She pumped her water from the well with the other women and cooked her meals over a fire. The stars in the night sky filled up the heavens.

On Nov. 15 Donovan was welcomed to her new home in Scarborough, where she joins the rest of Our Lady’s Missionaries who have given up the three Toronto houses they have been living in. Our Lady’s Missionaries have joined the Scarboro Mission fathers, some Basilian fathers, Loretto Sisters and others in Presentation Manor, a 229-unit retirement home that boasts wrap-around care, a chef to run the dining room and an elegantly designed chapel for daily Mass.

It’s a long way from rural Nigeria.

“When I came back (to Canada) people said it was so nice I was at home,” Donovan told The Catholic Register as she got her bearings. “And I said, ‘I left home.’ ”

Which is not to say Donovan is unhappy about the comfort and community on offer at Presentation Manor.

“I think we’re very blessed to have a place to go,” she said.

Presentation Manor is not the exclusive domain of vowed Catholic religious. Several lay couples have already taken up residence. Though the sisters and fathers will constitute a majority at the beginning, they will eventually be the minority.

In Nigeria, Donovan worked on behalf of disabled children and their families. At Presentation Manor she will have as much opportunity as she wants to be involved in ministry. 

Presentation manor movein 02At a Thursday morning Mass in the Presentation Manor chapel, Fr. John Carton of the Scarboro Missions accepts the cup from a sister. Carton was a missionary in Japan and is still active in ministry in Toronto. (Photo by Michael Swan) 

Presentation manor movein 03

At 94, Sr. Elaine MacInnes, left photo, is still embracing new experiences. In Japan she studied with Zen masters and became a sensei, or approved teacher of meditation. She taught meditation techniques to prisoners in English prisons, before bringing her prison meditation ministry to Canadian jails. (Photo by Michael Swan)

Fr. Peter McKenna of the Scarboros is busily setting up the new Becoming Neighbours office on the ground floor of Presentation Manor. The program matches 250 refugees and new Canadians in Scarborough with volunteer mentors. 

Presentation Manor chief executive officer Gord Perrault is anxious to make his staff aware of the things that make this retirement home different.

“We have a lot of intellectuals and a lot of very healthy people,” he tells the Presentation Manor support staff.

He warns caregivers that these seniors are going to want to care for them in exactly the way their own grandparents might take care of them. “It becomes a big family,” he said.

A lot of anticipation and “a little bit of anxiety,” led up to the move, said Our Lady’s Missionaries congregational leader Sr. Frances Brady.

“We’re very used to moving around,” she said. “It’s different to move the whole community. We’re seeing it as something new — a new kind of community, new opportunities.”

The sisters are particularly interested in seeing how the partnership between vowed religious and lay people develops at Presentation Manor, Brady said.

“It’s the community of the future.”

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