By Sr. Rita Schmidt & Jim Staudenmaier
Four sisters recently attended the rededication of a building which was a former hospital run by the SSJ-TOSF.
Srs. Esther Romalke, Florence Pasowicz, Loretta Zelewski and Rita Schmidt attended the rededication and blessing of the current Keen Ager facility Sept. 12 in Wakefield, Michigan. The facility, which includes independent, assisted living and foster care for adults, will now be operated by Catholic Social Services of the Marquette, Michigan, diocese.
The sisters, who traveled from Stevens Point, Wisconsin, for the event, were welcomed by KeenAger's manager Deb Granato as she tearfully expressed her joy and gratitude on behalf of the staff and residents for the sisters' prayers.
"You sisters made this day happen," Deb said. "Without your powerful prayers, these people would have no recourse to housing and a sense of community."
Residents greeted the sisters and other visitors during the facility tour, expressing pride in their home and thankfulness to share life together.
The facility, which now houses 32 residents, was owned by the SSJ-TOSF from 1946 to 1979 as Divine Infant Hospital. Fr. Wilbert Staudenmaier acquired the facility in 1979 and provided a home for Wakefield residents through the Keen Ager Corporation. His nephew, Jim Staudenmaier, carried on the ministry. Financial concerns prompted Jim to turn to the SSJ-TOSF to prayerfully petition the Lord for help in procuring a new sponsor to financially maintain and administer the needed service in this economically depressed area of Michigan's Upper Penninsula.
"Keen Agers has been a presence in Wakefield for more than thirty years," Staudenmaier said. "The staff is happy to continue their employment, while the residents are grateful to remain in their home. The continuation of Rev. Wilbert Staudenmaier's ministry will ensure adult foster care, independent living and assisted living for many needing these types of services."
Bishop Alexander Sample celebrated the Mass with a full chapel of residents, employees, local community members, sisters and board members of Catholic Social Services and Keen Agers. He expressed gratitude for the sisters' commitment to the healing ministry of Christ and the work of Keen Agers to provide a home and sense of belonging for residents.
He said he is happy that the diocese can continue this long-standing tradition of community love and care. "This is the work of the Church," he added.