Spirit of Catholic compassion shines at St. Dominic Village senior living community

July 9, 2024

Leafy trees line the park-like grounds of St. Dominic Village, located in the Texas Medical Center in Houston. The community’s features include the Warren Chapel, a market shop and several walking paths that course through the serene campus of St. Dominic Village, among other amenities. (Photo by St. Dominic Village)

HOUSTON — The spirit of compassion and care of Jesus shines brightly in the hearts of those serving at St. Dominic Village, located in the Texas Medical Center. For volunteer and retiree John McConn, this ministry transcends mere community service or a way to pass the time — it represents a deeply personal spiritual journey shaped by his Catholic upbringing as one of nine children raised by faith-filled parents and educated in several Catholic schools across Houston. 

McConn’s connection to St. Dominic Village, Houston’s sole Catholic senior living community, began in the 1970s when his aunt resided there, a place frequently visited by his family. His father, a doctor with patients at the facility, further nurtured a strong connection with the community and Dominican priests.  

McConn currently serves as an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion (EMHC) each Friday to residents in rehabilitation and nursing care at St. Dominic Village — a role he finds deeply fulfilling and the highlight of his week. 

“You can feel Christ’s love when you enter those rooms,” McConn said. “The residents light up with smiles when they recognize you and show a deep thirst for the Eucharist. They think I am doing them such a favor, but I always tell them, ‘You are a blessing to me!’” 

When McConn first began volunteering last year, he had a special moment when he encountered Father James Gaunt, C.S.B, his former chemistry teacher from St. Thomas High School in the 1960s, in the priest’s residence.  

“When I walked into the room and recognized him, I said, ‘Father Gaunt, I hope you remember me. I’m Johnny McConn, and I took your chemistry class; I’ve always admired you as a teacher,’” McConn said. “That gave Father a smile. I sat and talked to him for a while, and although he couldn’t verbally respond to me, he spoke to me through his eyes.” 

During some of his visits, McConn has witnessed the pain and suffering of residents who are extremely ill, which makes his role more meaningful. Before leaving, he reminds them that Jesus loves them very much, a gesture that often lights up their faces with joy and gratitude. 

“My main takeaway from this experience is that I’m healthy, and I need to use some of the gifts God has given me,” McConn said. “It’s really all about love, and God made us for community and serving others.” 

John Connolly, CEO of St. Dominic Village since November 2023 and a board member since 2014, oversees the dedicated staff and volunteers like McConn, who are committed to enhancing the lives of its residents. Under Connolly’s leadership, the ministry prioritizes residents’ well-being, ensuring that every decision reflects Catholic values and enriches their daily lives. 

“The Catholic Church calls us to serve, to assist those less fortunate than us,” Connolly said. “At St. Dominic Village, we fulfill this calling primarily for those unable to care for themselves due to illness. Being present and engaging with these elderly individuals, some of whom may not receive weekly visitors, is profoundly meaningful.” 

St. Dominic Village, supported by the Archdiocese’s Diocesan Services Fund (DSF), provides a wide range of care, including independent and assisted living and skilled nursing for long-term and short-term rehabilitation. Its five-star-rated center is among Houston’s few, showing its commitment to excellence. The community also consists of the

Archbishop Fiorenza Residence for up to 25 retired priests and spiritual enrichment programs and sacramental celebrations at the Warren Chapel, which seats over 200 people and sees 50 to 60 residents attending daily Mass. 

Connolly said contributing to the annual DSF appeal is crucial for supporting St. Dominic Village’s mission.

Connolly also envisions St. Dominic Village as a place where volunteers serve in numerous roles on campus, making a meaningful impact by utilizing their unique talents and gifts. 

“We need volunteers to help with activities for the seniors or serving at Mass,” said Connolly. “Whether you play piano or guitar, enjoy calling Bingo, or aspire to become an EMHC, there are plentiful opportunities available here at St. Dominic Village. Our campus welcomes volunteers to engage with the residents in several ways.” 

Connolly said he often receives gratitude from volunteers who appreciate the chance to serve the seniors. Retired priests thank him for improvements in their food and quality of life, and residents often take him by the hand to say they are praying for him daily. This appreciation from the community highlights the profound impact of the ministry and the vital role of the staff and volunteers who tirelessly maintain the supportive, loving environment at St. Dominic Village. 

To learn more about volunteering or programs and services offered at St. Dominic Village, go to www.archgh.org/stdominicvillage.

To donate to the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston’s DSF annual appeal, go to archgh.org/DSF. The DSF supports 64 ministries, whether direct service or education, which require this critical funding to remain in operation.

Out of each gift given to DSF, 100% of every dollar goes directly to supporting these ministries.