Friars Thank Former Ringwood Employees 

Jocelyn Thomas  Friar News

During the recent gathering, former staff members of Holy Name Friary nursing home took time to pose for a group photo.  (Photo courtesy of Amy Stewart-Wilmarth)

BUTLER, N.J. – It was difficult to find a dry eye among the 50 former employees of Holy Name Friary as they watched emotional video testimonials of the elder and infirm friar-residents for whom they provided care at the skilled nursing facility before it was shuttered last spring. The video tribute was a surprise to the former staff members, who were the guests of honor at a Province-hosted reception in gratitude of their service.

The Sept. 23 reception at St. Anthony Friary in Butler, about 15 miles from the former Ringwood facility, was attended by several friars, among them Provincial Minister Kevin Mullen, OFM, Richard McFeely, OFM, who was guardian of Holy Name Friary, Robert Frazzetta, OFM, guardian of the Butler friary, and Province archivist Thomas Cole, OFM.

Kevin explained the motivation for the reception, whose plans were in motion shortly after the nursing home was closed. “At the time, we were all amazed at the response of the friar-residents, who were most concerned about the staff and how the closing would impact their employment,” the Provincial said.

“But we were especially taken aback by the response of the employees – who, in true Franciscan spirit, put their concern for the health and well-being of the friar-residents ahead of their personal situations. We knew we had to do something special to acknowledge their devotion and affection,” Kevin said.

The reception had the feel of a family reunion, as touching stories and anecdotes, evoking a gamut of emotions, were shared over a sumptuous spread of hors d’oeuvres and desserts, according to Robert.

“There was much enthusiasm about seeing each other and catching up,” Bob said. “The former staff members seemed so grateful for the recognition and acknowledgment. Many expressed how much they loved working at Ringwood and, while they miss it terribly, they understand why it had to be closed. They continue to feel like part of the Franciscan family.”

In his remarks to the gathering, Kevin said that each of the former employees remains a part of the HNP community. “We are grateful for their dedication and professionalism, but most of all because they loved and cared for our brothers,” he said. “In this sense, they became part of the friar family – and as family, we remain connected.”

Richard said that during his time as guardian of Ringwood, he witnessed a staff that was completely dedicated to the care of the friars. “To them, it wasn’t a job, but rather a ministry to which they gave their all,” he said.

Kevin Mullen with nurses Patti Kane and Linda Harty. (Photo courtesy of Robert Frazzetta)

The emotional crescendo of the evening came when the videotaped testimonials of the infirm and elder friar-residents were shown to the gathering. Recorded and compiled into a video tribute by Province photojournalist Octavio Duran, OFM, the video featured each of the former Ringwood friar-residents expressing their gratitude and blessings for the staff that became their caregivers and family.

Kevin said the video tugged at everyone’s heartstrings. “It showed in picture and gesture – and with words – the deep gratitude that the friar-residents had for the people who cared for them. The testimonials were proof-positive that these good folks dedicated to the care of our brothers are forever part of the Franciscan family,” he said.

Thomas, who lives at the Butler friary, said the guests were delighted with the opportunity to gather in fraternity with each other and with the friars – and that they were deeply touched by Kevin’s genuine expression of gratitude, but especially by the videotaped testimonials.

“That video was a moment of profound emotion for each of them, seeing the former friar-residents in their new places,” Tom said. “More than one tear was shed. I think all of the Ringwood employees appreciated this evening as a sort of closure to all they had been through in the past year.”

Evelyn Manger, the former administrator of Holy Name Friary who had worked at the nursing care facility for more than 20 years, knew the gathering had the potential of awakening emotions, but she never expected sentiments to rise to the level they did.

“The video was especially memorable and I am so appreciative to Octavio for taking the time to put it together. Seeing the emotion of the friars really got to all of us,” said Manger, who in 2011 received the HNP Francis Medal, which was presented by then-guardian of the friary A. Francis Soucy, OFM.

Amy Stewart-Wilmarth, the Province’s director of wellness who became acquainted with staff members in her role of overseeing the health of senior friars, said, “It was a wonderful reunion for many of the staff members who had not seen each other since leaving Holy Name Friary around six months ago. The friars and employees were genuinely glad to see each other.”

After announcing the closing of Holy Name Friary in January, it took several months to complete the transition of friars moving to new facilities. Staff members were assisted in their departure and in identifying employment opportunities, as the Province provided the services of an outside agency to coordinate a job fair and relocation. Most are now employed at other skilled nursing care facilities – and all know that they will forever be part of the Franciscan family of Holy Name Province.

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