The following comes from a Nov. 25 story in the Valley Catholic, a publication of the San Jose diocese.

Some members of the order, the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, were retiring. Some were developing illnesses. All of them were getting older. How could they address the future?

“Our ministry has always been to respond to the needs of the day,” explains Sister Kate (Kathryn Ondreyco) the development director of the order.

First of all they looked at their careers which centered in the teaching field. Their schools closed, and they started to look for work in their parishes. They also expanded into the healthcare field. When they first came to California from Canada where they originated, they moved to Oakland where they were based for a long while. There, on the shores of Lake Merritt, they built a convent, a school, a high school and finally a university.

As the sisters started to retire and the need for education expanded the order began looking for another place in the ‘50s and ‘60s. They found it in the hills of Los Gatos just below the Jesuit property. “Los Gatos was just a sleepy little town at that time,” recalls Sister Kate. They started to build a retirement home, a place for medical care, a novitiate and even a Montessori School. They became part of the parish and faculty of St. Mary’s in Los Gatos.

They were very attuned to the changing needs of their order so they established a planning committee to take care of their future. In particular they were aware of the changing health needs of the sisters and the aging problems of their building. As they did their research for the future of healthy nuns, nuns in need of assisted living, and some in need of full time medical care, they encountered an unexpected stumbling block. There were strict restrictions on what they could do to the hill property.

Their order, The Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, is only part of a large, international order which includes Ontario and Manitoba in Canada, Portland, Oregon, southern Africa, Brazil and Japan. They are used to adapting to change so they rolled up their sleeves and found new solutions.

“We placed 20 of our sisters in Our Lady of Fatima in Saratoga. They participate in various liturgies and participate in other activities where they invite all residents to join them.”

About 30 of their sisters were placed in another retirement facility called Merrill Gardens in Campbell. “There’s a wonderful spirit of hospitality there and the sisters exercise with the residents. They have organized pastoral teams in both facilities.”

The next problem to be solved was “where do our offices go? In Los Gatos, we had a home. We had our chapel, our archives, our offices.” They were lucky to discover the Holy Spirit Episcopal parish which was in the process of moving. “This property had a chapel, offices and room space. It was a good investment and finally we had a place in California which we could call home.”

Finally they had to sell their property on the hill in Los Gatos to get enough money to solve the cost of long-term healthcare for the sisters. They worked diligently to listen to their neighbors’ requests and concerns. They were so successful that when they came before the Los Gatos Planning Commission, there were no objections….

To read the original story, click here.