It's shaping up to be a banner year for the Sisters Servants of Mary Congregation. The first week of April, Pope Benedict XVI signed a decree for the Oct. 29 beatification of Servants of Mary Sister Maria Catalina, an early member of the congregation founded in Spain in 1851 to care for the frail, poor and dying.
In February, local members of the congregation were pleasantly surprised to learn that their nonprofit Mary Health of the Sick convalescent hospital in Newbury Park was named among the 18 top nursing homes in America in U.S. News & World Report's 2011 Honor Roll.
The 24-hour skilled nursing facility owned and operated by the Sisters Servants of Mary received four straight quarters of perfect five-star ratings from the Federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in health inspections, nurse staffing and quality of care, according to Jodi Rupp, longtime administrator at Mary Health.
On behalf of her religious community, Servants of Mary Sister Carmen Arenas, mother superior and former archdiocesan liaison to retired and ill priests, appreciates the national recognition for Mary Health and is also looking forward to the Oct. 8 golden anniversary celebration of the Sisters' Oxnard novitiate, where she and many others went through formation. She notes that the 160th anniversary of the congregation will be celebrated by community members on Aug. 15.
"We want to give thanks for the novitiate's 50th anniversary and for the thousands of people who have received care," said Sister Arenas, noting that three novices and one postulant are currently in formation in Oxnard. "We are happy to be part of the archdiocese."
Word of the Sisters Servants of Mary ministry to the sick and dying has spread throughout the region over the years, resulting in waiting lists at Mary Health of the Sick and more patient assignments per week for Sisters doing in-home visits. Whereas, in past years, Sister Arenas visited one patient six nights a week, now the increased demand for care requires Sisters to visit two-to-three patients a week.
"People know about us," said Sister Arenas. "We try to go to the ones in most need. We have so many poor people."
Mary Health of the Sick currently serves 61 residents from ages 58 to 103 regardless of race, religion or illness. More than a dozen Servants of Mary, many of them licensed nurses, minister at the 90-plus staff member skilled-nursing facility.
Servants of Mary Sisters in the archdiocese include eight at the Oxnard formation house, eight at the Los Angeles residence convent and seven at Mary Health of the Sick Convalescent and Nursing Hospital. Servants of Mary also minister in Kansas City, New Orleans and New York.