Retirement Residences Receive Welcome Renovations

Jocelyn Thomas Friar News

The Province’s St. Anthony friaries in Butler, N.J., and St. Petersburg, Fla., have more in common than their names and the ages of their senior residents. Both friaries have been renovated in recent months, and the friars are pleased with the changes. Dust and paint are giving way to comfort and modern features.

On Aug. 29, Provincial Minister John O’Connor, OFM, blessed the new recreation room at the Butler friary, celebrating the completion of an almost four-month project that enlarged the existing recreation room.

Appreciating Space
“The old rec room was on one side of the hallway,” said guardian Richard McFeely, OFM. “It was a long narrow room, and with furniture in it, it was a bit crowded. When we were all together in the room, we were tripping over each other with walkers and the like. We tore down two retaining walls on each side of the hallway, which opened up into one big space.”

The room’s layout was designed by an architect hired by Richard, and the interior furnishings were planned by Fred Dilger, OFM, who has a background in interior design.

“We gained two rooms on the other side of the hallway that was never used,” Richard said. “All of this work, even though it took some time, has allowed for the one big room we now have for our recreation. Everyone is happy and grateful to Fred for the beauty and space we now enjoy. Without his considerable talent, none of this would have been possible.”

Last month’s blessing included a prayer service prepared by Robert Frazzetta, OFM, and a dinner to which friars from neighboring towns were invited. The last major renovation to the Butler friary was done in fall 2007.

Earlier this year, several friars from Boston moved to the friaries in Butler and St. Petersburg because of the June closing of the Province’s St. Anthony Residence. Though mainly retirement residences, many of the friars in both friaries still are engaged in active ministry. Both St. Anthony residences are home to roughly 30 friars each.

Adding Modern Features
In Florida, St. Anthony Friary has received new carpeting and new paint inside and out, along with renovations to the community area on the first floor, as well as other enhancements.

Guardian James Toal, OFM, has “systematically improved the friary building, as well as the living conditions of the friars,” said staff member Roy Gasnick, OFM. Over three months, the outside walls of the friary were painted “a bright off-white and trimmed with purple, in true Florida flare.”

Major changes are also being made to the first-floor common areas. Most were initiated because of the chapel’s relocation and expansion.

“The former lobby is now the friars’ recreation room and is at least three times the size of the old rec room,” said Roy in a summary he provided the HNP Communications Office. “Jim has fitted it with new solid tables and cushioned chairs reminiscent of a western lodge. He has converted the former mail room next door into a rec room reserve area for beverages and snacks. The mail room has been moved to the second floor. It provides a larger space for the boxes and other postal necessities, as well as a computer for community and guest use, a photocopier and a paper shredder. The old rec room has now become the common TV room, which has been fitted with comfortable new easy chairs.”

“The former chapel will be divided into two rooms, one of which will serve as an easy-access priest’s confessional, and the other room as a place where we can welcome and receive guests,” said Roy, adding that friars are also appreciating new air conditioning and entertainment amenities.

“Air-conditioning the entire three-story friary and its 76 rooms had always seemed financially impossible,” said Roy, “but stage by stage, the guardian slowly managed to get it done. The second and third floor U-shaped corridors were fitted with small air-conditioning units strategically placed. Next came the individual rooms, which got new air-conditioning/heating units. In many cases, walls had to be broken through from the outside to the inside to install the units. Now, each friar can choose the temperature he desires for his room.”

The guardian has also set up two exercise rooms with a treadmill and two stationary bicycles. Behind the image above, Emeric Szlezak, OFM, 95, is shown using the equipment.

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