Oblates' influence still strong at Copernicus Lodge

  • November 27, 2009
{mosimage}TORONTO - Thirty years after the John Paul II Care Centre of Copernicus Lodge opened, the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate influence is still strong.

Tracy Kamino, executive director of Copernicus Lodge, said ties between the lodge and the Oblate priests continues. Despite now being a non-profit organization run by a board of directors, the board is continuing the Oblates’ legacy of caring for and looking after the needs of Toronto’s Polish community, though it is also open to non-Polish residents.
Oblate priests celebrate daily Mass at the residence, located on Roncesvalles Avenue, in the heart of Toronto’s Polish community. Kamino said the priests have also contributed to the spiritual, emotional and financial needs of the home as well as helping maintain the lodge’s guiding vision, its Polish culture and Roman Catholic roots.

The idea for Copernicus Lodge dates back to 1972 with Fr. Michael J. Smith, O.M.I., whose mission was to have a home for the elderly within the Polish community. Smith had been approached by parishioners from St. Casimir’s parish who felt there was a critical need to establish a home for aging seniors. He was guided by the motto: “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all other things will be given to you as well.”

Smith’s vision for a seniors’ home was one which would meet the needs of the whole human being, including the physical, social, medical, spiritual and cultural needs. Seven years later, on March 4, 1979, the lodge opened to its first 100 residents who were active senior tenants and lived in independent apartments.

At Copernicus Lodge, residents can “age in place,” says the lodge’s board chairman Jesse Flis. This means the lodge provides a continuum of care where individuals can come for the adult day program, then later choose to live in one of the lodge’s apartments or stay in its long-term facility with its 24-hour supportive housing care and services.

For adult day care, seniors from the local community can participate in daily activities and programs.

There is also a salon, local banking and physiotherapy services for its 550 residents.

One of Copernicus Lodge’s most famous residents was Dr. Stanley Haidasz, one of the lodge’s co-founders.

Haidasz, Canada’s first multicultural minister and a champion of pro-life causes as an MP and Senator, moved to the lodge’s long-term care facility about four years ago. He died on Aug. 6 at the age of 86 after a brief illness. Before his political career, Haidasz was a family doctor who mainly served the Polish community in Toronto. In his youth, he had thought of becoming an Oblate priest but found his calling in medicine.

Haidasz’s daughter, Marie Cybulski, says her father experienced a high level of care at the lodge and recalls her parents spending time together there during her father’s last years.

Cybulski said being one of the lodge’s founding directors represented her father’s concern for the Polish community and the elderly.

“He cared about people being taken care of and taking care of seniors as well,” she said. “It was part of what he was, of being a family physician.”

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