St. Dominic Village offers seniors a ‘lifeline’ of compassionate care critical during COVID-19

November 10, 2020

The Warren Chapel at St. Dominic Village continues to be a draw for many of its residents. Within walking distance, Warren Chapel hosts daily Mass, Adoration and other opportunities for prayer and spiritual growth. (Photo courtesy of St. Dominic Village)

HOUSTON — With the utmost concern for the overall health and safety of its residents during the COVID-19 pandemic, the staff at St. Dominic Village have worked tirelessly to provide a lifeline of compassionate care to improve and enhance the quality of life of its seniors during these uncertain times.

“In the midst of a pandemic with no real written rules, our team has come together and done an incredible job in caring for the needs of our residents,” said Amy Shields, chief executive officer of St. Dominic Village. “They have done so with a spirit of grace, compassion and love for what they do and for the residents that we serve. The love and respect that are seen between residents and staff here are remarkable.”

Father Greg Elliott agrees St. Dominic Village has been a lifesaver in many ways. A late vocation to the priesthood, Father Elliott had previously served as a permanent deacon at St. Cecilia Church in Houston. Following the death of his wife, he discerned the priesthood and was eventually ordained a Catholic priest by the Diocese of Tulsa. Now retired, he said St. Dominic Village helped bring him back to Houston to be near his two sons and has continuously offered him the service and care when he needed it most.

“St. Dominic Village has been a lifeline for me,” Father Elliott said. “I used to be in a place that was not good for me because of the weather. Since I’ve moved here and am being cared for by its staff, I’ve been renewed physically and psychologically; the care has been very, very, very good.”

Thanks to the care he received from the staff in the assisted living center, he has been able to transition back to the Priest Retirement Independent Living Residence.
As the only Catholic retirement community in the greater Houston area that offers a true continuum of care for the aging population, Shields said the heart of St. Dominic Village’s mission is “Caring for Our Elders with the Compassion of Christ.”

The levels of care provided include independent living, assisted living and skilled nursing care for long-term and short-term rehabilitation residents. It also includes many spiritual enrichment programs and celebration of the Sacraments at the Warren Chapel on campus, which has been a draw for many of its residents.

‘Tremendous witnesses’

One such person is Julia S. Tucker who has lived in a St. Dominic Village independent living unit since January 2020. She moved to Houston to be near family when she could no longer live on her own due to medical reasons. She chose St. Dominic Village because it had a chapel within walking distance offering daily Mass, Adoration and many opportunities for prayer and spiritual growth.

Tucker said the staff and volunteers are tremendous witnesses for the Catholic Church in a secular world. She added that, through their compassionate care, they demonstrate that life matters regardless of age, and seniors should be respected and appreciated.

“I can honestly say I have never seen a more loving and caring staff, as well as residents, that live here,” said Tucker. “People are always helping each other, and the staff meets you immediately with a smile and understanding way when you need them. The Archdiocese should be proud that they have such a facility as St. Dominic.”

While many social activities traditionally held on campus are currently on hold due to social distancing mandates, the residents are able to come together for Mass, prayer in the chapel and gather for some social time. Tucker said she feels the staff has done an excellent job involving the residents in activities where they are socially distanced and can still have fun.

“The entire staff has done an excellent job in keeping us well and safe during this unprecedented time,” said Tucker. “We are all so grateful to all of them.”

‘I am home’

Assisting living resident Mary Ann Parker said St. Dominic Village has given her peace of mind since moving in two years ago. She feels safe and secure on the grounds and feels all her needs are provided for by the caring staff.

“Before the pandemic, I could attend Mass every day, but now I can watch it on TV in the comfort of my room,” said Parker. “I have made some wonderful friends here, and I simply love walking around the grounds. I feel like this is my home — I am home.”

A seven-year resident in the assisted living facility, Shirley Brumbaugh, said living at St. Dominic Village has taught her to become more conscious of how fortunate she is to be living there.

“It has been very interesting to meet other people from other regions across the U.S.,” said Brumbaugh. “We find we have things in common and things different from where we came from. I was permitted to have a family gathering here, and it was wonderful that all of my family could be accommodated right here in ‘my home’ since I was unable to travel.”

A ‘deeper level of trust’

Shields said residents’ families have truly been a blessing in how they have adapted to the stricter mandates in place. She feels they have a deeper level of trust in the level of care provided by staff for their loved ones.

“The daily or weekly visits by family members at one time were completely stopped, and they became even more dependent on us to be their eyes and ears in checking on their loved one,” said Shields. “The residents have also shown how they can adapt to anything, and they have done so very well despite the pandemic.”

Shields gives credit to the continued support of St. Dominic Village’s board of directors, financial donors and volunteers that are committed to fulfilling the mission despite challenges.

“They have all continued to give back to St. Dominic Village in different ways, but each important and needed,” said Shields. “From the early days of worrying about PPE, to the more recent days when we have cared for COVID-positive residents, it has all been challenging and new.”

St. Dominic Village, a non-profit senior care center community, is one of 60 ministries supported by the Diocesan Services Fund.

Shields said the center relies heavily on grants and donations for support to operate each year. These are often the reason programs can be offered, she said.

“We are so appreciative of DSF funding to help us to continue our mission. It is vital to our success as an organization.”

Shields said the financial impact of COVID-19 has also been one of the biggest challenges they have faced.

The pandemic cancelled or postponed several events that were vital to their operations financially.

St. Dominic Village Board Chair Michele Malloy said supporting the center is important for these reasons and because it is the only Catholic senior community in the Archdiocese. Supporting the DSF allows daily Mass, Sacraments of the Sick and Reconciliation, Adoration, and other prayer opportunities to continue on campus.

“Some of our residents also run out of money and need our help to continue to enjoy the riches of our faith,” said Malloy. “That’s where DSF and our donors provide essential support. Please support DSF and St. Dominic Village. The last part of our life is when we most need the constant presence of our Lord.”

As a resident, Tucker agrees supporting the DSF is imperative to St. Dominic Village and the other ministries in the Archdiocese that benefit.

“There is no other Catholic full-care facility in a town of millions of people,” said Tucker. “We are near the medical center and can receive care immediately if necessary. But most importantly, it provides the spiritual care we need especially at this time in our lives.”