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Employees at Ringwood Friary Prepare for Transition

The interior of Holy Name Friary, whose residents have now moved to new homes. (Photo courtesy of Octavio Duran, OFM.)

RINGWOOD, N.J. – A job-recruitment fair was held last week for staff members at Holy Name Friary, the Province’s skilled nursing care facility in northern New Jersey that has closed its doors after nearly 30 years of serving infirm and elderly friars. The job fair was part of a series of services offered by the Province to assist staff members in connecting with employment opportunities and relocating to other facilities.

When Provincial Minister Kevin Mullen, OFM, announced at a meeting in January that Holy Name Friary would be closing by the end of this spring, he pledged that Trinity Health – one of the largest, multi-institutional Catholic health care delivery systems in the country retained by HNP – would work with staff members to assist in the transition process.

The Province has been providing counseling services and workshops on resume writing and interview skills leading up to the March 21 job fair – which was a four-hour event at Holy Name Friary, where representatives of eight nursing homes and assisted living facilities, mostly in northern New Jersey, spoke to staff members about potential employment opportunities. Representatives from the state’s Department of Labor and Work Force Development were also on hand to offer training and review resumes.

HNP has been sensitive to helping staff members prepare for the next chapter of their lives, as many longtime employees – ranging from administration to maintenance, and nursing to dining services positions – have not been in the job market for decades.

Preparing for Transitions
Nearly 80 percent of the 52-person staff participated at the job fair, according to Meg Reimer, vice president of Trinity Senior Health Services, which since late last year has assisted the Province in designing and implementing the plan to close the Ringwood facility – including placing friars in private nursing homes in the New Jersey-New York region and assisting staff members in their transition to other employment.

The grounds of Holy Name Friary in northern New Jersey.

“I saw people leave the job fair with hope,” Reimer said. “That was powerful.”

“Trinity HR was very good with providing all of our employees with the tools they need in order to find other jobs,” said Evelyn Manger, administrator at Holy Name Friary, who has worked at the skilled nursing care facility since 1991, and was presented with HNP’s Francis Medal in 2011.  “They answered every question that our employees had.”

Displaying Grace
Although the news of the closing surprised residents and staff, both groups reacted with optimism and, most noticeably, with interest and concern for each other.

“I was deeply touched by the reactions of friars and staff,” said Provincial Vicar Lawrence Hayes, OFM. “The friars were uniformly graceful and open to the change, framing it as yet another chapter in their ongoing pilgrimage with the Lord. Even more moving was the concern the friars expressed for the staff. They were worried about their well-being and their ability to find new jobs. After the announcement, the staff  was equally concerned  for the friars and wanted assurance that the friars would continue to receive good care at their new facilities.”

“The mutual concern and love of the friars and staff for each other reminded me of the famous short story of O. Henry, “The Gift of the Magi,” about a husband and wife who loved each other so deeply that they each sold their prize possession to be able to afford a special Christmas gift for the other,” Larry said. “Such a mutual display of other-directed concern at Ringwood that day was a glimpse of grace – of God’s presence even amidst a very difficult transition.”

Before all of the friars were brought to their new homes, they reassured staff members of their prayers that new employment opportunities would come their way.

Manger said she would miss the daily interaction with the friars, “sitting with them and listening to all of their wonderful stories.”

Kevin remarked in a Jan. 9 article in this newsletter about the Ringwood facility’s closing that the sincerity of the staff’s compassion and dedication could not have been more evident when he opened the floor to questions at the announcement meeting.

“It was deeply moving that all of their questions expressed concern about our friars. That tells you everything you need to know about the men and women who have been caring for our brothers. They are a remarkable group,” Kevin said.

The Ringwood friary logo.

On March 25, the last of the residents of Holy Name Friary moved to their new homes. A total of 19 friars moved to facilities to meet their specific care needs and backgrounds – mainly in New York and New Jersey, but also in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania.

“The new facilities for the friars were carefully chosen for their reputation and quality of care, close proximity to friaries, and respect for religious tradition – and, equally important, where the friars would experience the same feelings they had about Holy Name Friary,” said Amy Stewart-Wilmarth, the Province’s director of health and wellness.

“The dedicated staff at HNF continued providing exceptional care as each group of friars transitioned to a new facility, which all happened fairly quickly after the January 8 announcement. As I have visited the friars in these new care facilities, I have been impressed and reassured to see how accepting the friars are with this enormous adjustment away from their nurturing community in Ringwood,” Stewart-Wilmarth continued.

“I have also been impressed and touched by the support of the surrounding friaries and their welcoming presence for the friars at admission, their steady flow of visiting in these early weeks, and now actively planning upcoming lunch and dinner gatherings and detailed schedules of shared times for visiting. All of this fraternal support closes any voids in community that may be felt by the transitioning friars,” she added.

The final day for employees at Holy Name Friary is April 2. Kevin said an appreciation dinner for the Ringwood staff is being planned to honor their hard work and excellent care for the friars over the years.

— Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.

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