By Fr. Nicholas Apostola
The Holy Trinity Eastern Orthodox Nursing Home is expected to open in early summer 1994. It will be a 113-bed, level 2, facility. In addition to the usual nursing home amenities, Holy Trinity will have an Orthodox Chapel that will help to provide its distinctive character. The entire cost of the project is currently estimated at around $7.5 million. The project is being financed with HUD secured notes and with an expected capital infusion from donations by faithful that should total $2 million within two years of opening. Current fund raising has yielded $750,000 in pledges (of which $550,000 has been paid); $100,000 in miscellaneous donations; and $150,000 in outstanding loans to the member parishes of the Council of Eastern Orthodox Churches of Central Massachusetts (CEOC) which is the parent body of the project. The Nursing Home Board of Directors (21 persons appointed from the member parishes) has contracted with a nursing home management/consulting firm to administer the home at least through its critical first three years of operation. This will be the first pan-Orthodox nursing home in North America, the result of the cooperation of Orthodox parishes from various jurisdictions in a common venture.
The nursing home project is the latest in a long line of successful joint activities by the Orthodox parishes of central Massachusetts through the Council of Eastern Orthodox Churches (CEOC). The CEOC was formed in the early 1950s. Its major focus then was the annual celebration of a pan-Orthodox Liturgy, usually on the Sunday of Orthodoxy, with an invited hierarch of one of the jurisdictions of the member parishes. This remained the focus until the Council went into a dormant period in the late 1960s. It was revived in the late 1970s, but with an expanded focus. While the liturgical concelebration remained the axis around which every other activity rotated, the member parishes decided that they wanted to cooperate in other ways as well. Some of these include: joint retreats, both for adults and youth; a regular Sunday morning radio program; concelebrated, rotating Presanctified Liturgies during Great Lent; a fall lecture series; an Orthodox cemetery; and an emergency food pantry servicing 300-500 persons weekly. The CEOC’s membership includes all 12 canonical Orthodox parishes in central Massachusetts, representing 4 jurisdictions.
It is with this history of cooperation, then, that the CEOC began exploring the establishment of a nursing home. Initial investigations were made in the mid-1980s, but the nursing home industry environment, the amount of capital that would be required at the outset, and the climate within the parishes all tended to argue against so ambitious aproject. The idea was placed on the back-burner for a number of years. In the winter of 1989 a nursing home that was being closed came up for sale. The attractive feature was that it was empty but still had an active license.
The CEOC agreed to purchase the home (and the license, which was the most important aspect) for $1 million, and planned to renovate and expand the existing structure for another $4.5 million. After over a year’s negotiation with the owner of the nursing home around the issue of financing, the CEOC was unable to come to a final agreement with the owner. However, during the intervening time, the CEOC had had the license transferred to the Holy Trinity corporation that had been formed by the CEOC, and it was decided to move to a new site and begin new construction. It has taken almost four years from the initial offer to the beginning of construction. With God’s grace, the Holy Trinity Nursing Home will open more than five years after the initial decision was made by the parishes to embark on this project.
SOME THINGS TO CONSIDER
1) The nursing home industry is extremely complicated, heavily regulated by both state and federal authorities, and financially precarious. No attempt to begin a project such as this should be made without expert advice. This means lawyers, accountants, and consultants who specialize in nursing homes.
2) A project such as this will require the joint cooperation of many parishes. It cannot be done by one parish alone. The needed capital resources alone are staggering. Also, this kind of project cannot be the first attempt at pan-Orthodox cooperation in a region. As mentioned above, the CEOC had a 30-year history of cooperating before endeavoring this.
3) A great deal of educating to the need for a nursing home must be done within the parishes before starting. This idea was talked about for years in the Worcester area before any specific plans were proposed. This should included surveys, lectures, and presentations by professionals.
4) The people involved in organizing the project need to be (a) faithful Christians; (b) professionals involved in business, government, social services, accounting, or law (at least a portion of the organizers need to be this); and (c) in touch with the mood and politics of their respective parishes.
5) Prayer is absolutely critical. The greatest strength of the cooperation in the CEOC is that it is liturgically centered. A number of times the entire project was in serious jeopardy. Its failure would have resulted in the loss of over a million dollars. Special prayer services were held and petitions were added to the liturgies celebrated in the parishes. That we have gotten this far, that the home is being built and will open, is a miracle for which all of the faithful in central Massachusetts are cognizant and grateful to God.
SOME THINGS TO REFLECT UPON
The whole Church in America has reached a new stage in its presence and mission. The Holy Trinity Eastern Orthodox Nursing Home reflects two aspects of this new stage. The first is that the Church has always conceived of its role as providing both material comfort to those in need, as well as spiritual nourishment. St. Basil founded orphanages, hostels, hospitals, and homes for the aged. It is a sign of our maturity that we can now undertake projects such as these. The second is that a united Orthodox witness in America is being built at the local level as well as at the national level. The faithful from various parishes and jurisdictions can and want to cooperate, if given the opportunity, there are many ways to build the whole Church together, but prayer and worship must remain central.
For More Information
If you are seriously considering a project such as this, you should contact us directly for more information and assistance. If you just want more information on the project, you are also welcomed to contact us, at:
Holy Trinity Eastern Orthodox Nursing Home
P.O. Box 195
Worcester, MA 01614-0195
Fr. Nicholas Apostola is Pastor of St. Nicholas Romanian Orthodox Church in Worcester, MA. He is a member of the Eastern Orthodox Council of Churches of Central Massachusetts and a member of the Massachusetts Commission on Christian Unity.