After nearly 70 years of living in Los Gatos, the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary have announced they will be moving and eventually selling their 11.8-acre compound on Prospect Avenue.
In a report released to the media Tuesday, the religious order of women said after two years of evaluation, it had chosen two nearby retirement communities for skilled care and assisted living for the 66 sisters who reside at the town convent, which includes 13 buildings.
Those parcels encompass the three-story convent buildings and other facilities totaling approximately 95,000 square feet of space. The campus also includes 10 residences occupied by sisters and used for retreat guests and administrative offices.
Our Lady of Fatima Villa in Saratoga will be chosen for the care of sisters needing skilled nursing care and assisted living while sisters just needing assisted living will be moved to Merrill Gardens in Campbell, which is under construciton, said Sister Mary Pat LeRoy, chairwoman of the convent's long-range planning commitee.
The facility plans to begin transitioning the women to the new communities in 2013. "In each of the new locations, we will ensure pastoral and community support from Holy Names Sisters. We will continue to operate the convent and Villa Holy Names retreat for the foreseeable future. We will also continue our long-held relationship with St. Mary’s and the Los Gatos community throughout ministry, mission and pastoral work," LeRoy said.
"This is not going to happen immediately ... we'll be staying here continuing our lives ... This is all a process. We've arrived at the decision finally and we're just going to work our way at it. We don't really have a deadline," she added.
Reasons cited for the move were the age of the religious women, changes and advancements in health and elder care delivery and the age and condition of the convent's buildings.
"Because our expertise and experience has been focused on our mission of education, we are looking to others with the needed expertise to manage the increasing long-term health-care needs and housing of our elder sisters," LeRoy explained.
The order's original hope was to remain on the property and either remodel the
existing buildings or partner with one or two organizations to build a full-service
continuing care retirement community and moderately priced housing for seniors, LeRoy added.
However, after careful discernment, the order determined that it was not feasible to achieve goals of sustainable, affordable health care and housing for the sisters on the property, she said.
Our Lady of Fatima Villa President and CEO Bella Mahoney welcomed the religious women and looked forward to meeting their long-term care needs.
ʺThis represents a model for future collaboration among religious communities as we address the ever changing health care needs of an aging population,ʺ Mahoney said. Fatima Villa is Dominican sponsored community.
LeRoy said the convent also planned to work with the Town of Los Gatos and its neighbors during the next couple of years on the transition of the convent property as well.
Because of the residential character of the neighborhood, LeRoy said the facility is planning to return the property to its traditional lotting pattern, consistent with the surrounding neighborhood, the existing zoning for the property and the town’s General Plan.
“Returning the property to its residential roots and character is compatible with the existing neighborhood and consistent with the spirit, intent and letter of our town’s General Plan and zoning,” said Los Gatos resident and former Planning
Commissioner Phil Micciche. “I applaud the sisters for their thoughtful approach to the long-term transition of the convent. ”
Sister Nicki Thomas, Los Gatos St. Mary’s School President who also lives at the convent, said through the years, the facility has counted on the community's support for its ministry and the sisters' care.
The religious women have hosted and served tens of thousands of sisters, Los Gatos families and people in need in neighboring cities throughout the years. There are 1,000 Sisters of the Holy Names worldwide, 169 sisters residing in California and 66 sisters living at the convent today. Most of the Los Gatos sisters are retired and need either skilled health care or assisted living services.
The order helped found St. Mary’s school in downtown Los Gatos in 1954 and has educated thousands of children as both teachers and administrators. For nearly 30 years, it also sponsored Casa Maria Montessori School at the Los Gatos convent, providing education for hundreds of children each year.
The sisters bought the Prospect Avenue property in 1945. The convent opened in 1952.