diofav 23

Catholic News Herald

Serving Christ and Connecting Catholics in Western North Carolina

111017 maryfieldHIGH POINT — Pennybyrn at Maryfield is celebrating 70 years of caring and compassion this week, marking the day in 1947 when five women religious arrived to carry out the mission of carrying for others in the High Point area.

Residents, supporters, staff and volunteers of the retirement and assisted living community gathered to give thanks to God for the anniversary milestone during a Mass offered Nov. 3 by Bishop Peter Jugis.

In his homily, Bishop Jugis praised the “miraculous” development of Maryfield over the past seven decades since five Sisters of the Poor Servants of the Mother of God were sent by their congregation in London, England, to High Point at the request of North Carolina Bishop Vincent Waters. They left their families, their homeland and everything that was familiar to them in order to serve God in North Carolina, where they arrived on Nov. 14, 1947.

The five pioneer sisters – Sister Mary Patrice, Sister Anne Christina, Sister Maria Benignus, Sister Ellen Fitzgerald and Sister Mary Monica – purchased Penny House, originally built by George Penny in 1927, on Greensboro Road in High Point. They converted the home into a convent and a convalescent center with 22 beds. It became known as Maryfield after it was licensed as a nursing home in the 1950s.

Seventy years since they arrived, Maryfield has grown into a 71-acre continuing care retirement community called Pennybyrn at Maryfield. The facilities, which were entirely rebuilt in 2007, include a small neighborhood of 20 independent living cottages, a building of 131 independent living apartments, a building of 24 assisted living and 24 memory support apartments and a nursing care building. The Maryfield chapel houses Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration, in which hundreds of volunteers from across the Triad have taken turns keeping vigil every day and night since the Feast of Corpus Christi on June 5, 1994.

Five Sisters of the Poor Servants of the Mother of God still live in Penny House, but the nursing home moved to a separate building behind the house in 1965. The community now totals 377 residents and 401 staff.

The sisters continue in the tradition of their founder, Frances Taylor, who took the name of Mother Magdalen, caring for their residents with the help and guidance of a board of directors and ambassador council comprised of people from the community.

Many of those supporters and volunteers were on hand Nov. 3 to give thanks for God’s blessings on Maryfield and for the gift of the sisters’ presence in High Point.

“It’s remarkable that those nuns came here 70 years ago and established this successful place,” said Ken Kaczmarek, a Maryfield resident and parishioner of St. Paul the Apostle Church in Greensboro. “They are a joy.”

“Joy” is how Dick and De Martin also describe their experience living for the past three years at Maryfield. Dick Martin praised the sisters’ “sustained commitment and holy sacrifice” in caring for the sick and the elderly over the past seven decades. Good health, he noted, is not to be taken for granted. “We tend to give ourselves too much credit for our own health. We need help from the Lord, and Pennybyrn is a step in that direction.”

God’s presence is felt everywhere at Maryfield, residents and staff said – not only in caring for the sick or the dying, not only in Perpetual Adoration or at the frequent Masses offered in the chapel, but also in the smiles and the love of everyone who lives or serves on the Maryfield campus.

“It’s just amazing,” said Ann Carr of High Point, a longtime volunteer and one of four people who inaugurated Perpetual Adoration at Maryfield 23 years ago. “I come almost every day, and I feel uplifted. It’s a beautiful place – I see the care that the people are given. I also see the fidelity of married couples, taking care of each other. It’s been a very rewarding experience for me.”

“I’ve never been to a nursing home that has a chapel like this,” she continued. The focus on prayer and on Eucharistic Adoration, and the joyful presence of the sisters, “makes a difference. The Holy Spirit is here.”

111017 Maryfield anniversaryMaryfield has “a beautiful, prayerful, Catholic atmosphere,” agreed Father Tom Norris, O.S.F.S., pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in High Point, who concelebrated the Mass with Bishop Jugis. The Mass was also concelebrated by Monsignor Anthony Marcaccio, pastor of St. Pius X Church in Greensboro; Father James Solari, Maryfield chaplain; Father Joseph Dinh, pastor of Christ the King Church in High Point; and retired Father Robert Ferris. Father Noah Carter served as master of ceremonies.

Ann Birmingham, a nurse administrator for 18 years at Maryfield, added, “It’s the most wonderful place in the world.”

“It’s just wonderful!” echoed Margaret O’Connor, a charter resident who’s called Maryfield home for the past 18 years. “I arrived here in an ambulance 18 years ago this week,” she said with a smile, recounting how she fell and broke several bones that required extensive rehabilitation. Now about to turn 97, O’Connor said she loves everything about Maryfield. “The sisters are wonderful, everything is wonderful!”

Diane Peace, whose mother Doris Casey was in full nursing care at Maryfield for four years until her death, praised the sisters’ and the staff’s commitment to caring for the entire person and treating everyone like family. “The care they give the dying here is beautiful,” she said.

Mission leader Sister Lucy Hennessy, SMG, who is originally from Limerick, Ireland, noted that the five founding sisters “embarked on a journey of faith to come to an unknown place and serve a people they yet did not know. They truly had little of this world’s goods or even money in their possessions, but they had a heart filled with faith and with hope, and that is what made the difference.”

They cooperated with God’s will through their obedience, generosity and dedication, Sister Lucy said, as did so many people in the community who stepped forward to help build and staff Maryfield over the years.

As the needs of the community have grown, the sisters’ dedication to caring has evolved into a new, vibrant retirement lifestyle and care for people of all faiths.

“It’s a great day to celebrate 70 years of heritage,” said Pennybyrn at Maryfield’s president, Richard Newman. Though the scope of what the sisters do has changed and broadened over the years, “the core values are still the same. Respect for the person and the hospitality of the sisters are still as strong as it was in the beginning.”

Maryfield’s mission remains the same as it did when the sisters arrived in 1947, Sister Lucy said: “to demonstrate God’s love for those whose lives we touch.”

“This morning as we continue to reflect on how far we have journeyed over the past decades, we are profoundly grateful for what God has accomplished in and through us,” she said. “Circumstances may have changed but the same strong faith and trust in what God can still do remains, as we too look forward to serving those in need for many decades to come.”

Maryfield’s 70th anniversary is like any other milestone in life, noted supporter Leo Gottschalk – in a way, it’s only a number, but it’s evidence of so much more. “Years may pass, but it’s important to celebrate God’s blessings.”

— Patricia L. Guilfoyle, Editor. Kathy Roach, correspondent, contributed.