Holy Ground: Gratitude for Gleason Hall

Before new construction begins at Nazareth Living Center, ceremony honors Gleason Hall’s 50-year legacy.  

Gleason Hall at Nazareth Living Center in south St. Louis county has been called home by the Sisters of St. Joseph for more than 50 years. Opened in 1965, it replaced the 80-year-old Nazareth Convent and continued to house the aging sisters. Since 1992, the doors have been open to lay people as well, furthering the mission of serving the dear neighbor.

This summer, Gleason Hall is coming down, making room for something new—a 60-unit assisted living facility that is positioned to meet residents’ needs today and into the future. But, Gleason is more than bricks and mortar. It’s holy ground, full of 50 years of memories for sisters, residents, staff and volunteers who, in their own ways, call Gleason “home.”

On Sunday, May 22, a “Gratitude to Gleason” service was held to mark an ending, celebrate a new beginning and honor a legacy.

The ceremony was held in Nazareth Chapel, which will remain as part of the new building and will be open during construction. During the service, speakers shared memories of their experiences at Gleason.

Sister Rita Flaherty called Gleason “the happiest place,” reflecting on her years as Gleason’s hospitality coordinator and as a current resident. Sister Audrey Olson talked about the history of the library that was a gift to so many sisters and residents.  Tom Knese, former director of maintenance, worked at Gleason for 45 years. He fondly spoke of Gleason’s first Christmas in 1965 when, as a gift for the sisters, he put up the statues of Mary and Joseph that still sit in the chapel today.

The building was blessed, as were the sisters who are moving to their temporary destinations during the 18-month construction period.

The colorful sharing continued at the reception, facilitated by Nazareth’s CEO Ron Mantia. Sisters reminisced about their days volunteering as novices, about working at the facility and about their experiences as residents. Employees, too, shared their favorite stories.

Ron says the ceremony calls him to reflect upon the influence the sisters’ presence has on his role. “It’s a humbling experience to think that I’ve followed in the sisters’ footsteps, standing in the shoes of the sisters, like Sister [Joan Marie] Gleason, as we head into the future with new buildings and new services.”

Sister Linda Straub of Province Leadership knows that what makes Gleason “holy ground” will be continued within its new walls. “Today was a day to share memories with laughter and tears—both flowed freely—as well as tender moments, loving smiles and the promise of a future home where all of this will continue.”

5/26/17

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