Nadine Calliguiri, who lives at Nazareth House, is pictured outside her room at the Catholic assisted care facility in San Rafael, which announced on October 27 that it would be closing in 2021, partly due to staffing issues due to the coronavirus pandemic became more serious. Calliguiri, 82, originally from San Francisco founded Handicapables, a non-profit department for adults. (Photo by Christina Gray / San Francisco Catholic)
November 10, 2020
Catholic San Francisco
After caring for seniors in the Bay Area for nearly 60 years, including dozens of priests from the Archdiocese of San Francisco, the Sisters of Nazareth shut the doors of the Nazareth home in San Rafael.
Surprised residents, families, and staff learned from community leaders on October 27th that the Marin County facility – one of four assisted care facilities operated by the Order of California – is unable to maintain operations, and Will be closed in early 2021.
A press release released on the same day said the coronavirus pandemic helped deal a fatal blow to Nazareth House, which has not been able to accept new residents for eight months.
“As with so many affected by the global pandemic, Nazareth House is simply unable to cope with the financial, human and health challenges posed by the current circumstances,” said Barbara Ann Crowley, community executive director.
Sisters of Nazareth American head nurse Rose Hoye, CSN, told Catholic San Francisco on November 4th that the closure of the Nazareth house in San Rafael was not taken lightly by either the sisters or their board of directors.
“It took us a long time to make that decision,” she said. “Although it sounds like a quick decision, it wasn’t.”
The same type of staffing issues that other Marin County companies are facing became the “straw that broke the camel’s back” this year, according to Sister Hoye, amid the pandemic.
The Sisters of Nazareth own and operate four locations at Nazareth House in California: Fresno, Los Angeles, San Diego and San Rafael. Only the latter closes.
The lack of affordable housing in or even near Marin County was not an issue when the Sisters of Nazareth opened the San Rafael facility in 1962, she said. However, in the last 20 years it has become a critical obstacle to finding and retaining qualified personnel.
Nazareth House employs more than 75 nurses, caregivers, hospitality workers, maintenance workers, and others who cannot afford to live where the average home rents at $ 2,700 a month.
“It’s always been a challenge, but when the coronavirus hit, a challenge turned into a crisis,” said Sister Hoye.
The employees traveled from Vallejo or Richmond or further to work in relatively poorly paid jobs. Those who lived in San Rafael usually lived in the low-income canal area that became the breeding ground for Marin County viruses.
Sister Hoye confirmed that there was a coronavirus outbreak in the building that year but declined to elaborate on it.
During a visit to the facility, which could accommodate up to 125 residents, the Catholic San Francisco incurred the number of obviously unoccupied rooms that border a beautiful courtyard.
“We haven’t been able to take pictures since March,” said Sister Hoye. “That is not financially viable.”
Nazareth House just completed a $ 3.5 million care unit renovation project and added a new roof, she said. Another major renovation project for residential modernization at the planning stage was carried out when the sisters saw where things were going.
Sister Hoye said the response to the closure announcement was “a great sorrow” among residents and staff.
“We are very sad ourselves,” she said. “It’s a tragic, tragic decision to be made.”
Crowley said the sisters would work with each resident to help them transition to a new community.
82-year-old San Franciscan Nadine Calliguiri moved to Nazareth House seven years ago.
“I was happy from the first day I moved here,” said Calliguiri, who was born with cerebral palsy and started Handicapables, a nearly 60-year-old Catholic ministry for adults with disabilities. “You feel the joy of the Holy Spirit here,” she said.
The San Francisco chapter of the now national organization is now run by Catholic charities and renamed Breaking Bread with Hope earlier this year.
Calliguiri said she has friends who will help her find an apartment, hopefully in Petaluma, but added, “I don’t really know where to go for sure.”
Claire Miller volunteered at Nazareth House for 15 years before moving there with her late husband Don three years ago.
“This peaceful and joyful home gave us a home to be together in for the last days of his journey here on earth,” she said. “I felt safe and supported at a time when I needed it most.”
The Nazareth House has been favored by many retired priests, and its closure will leave a void for those who will retire in the future, said Rachel Avelais, care manager for retired and aging priests for the Archdiocese of San Francisco.
She said the community of priests in the Nazareth house grew a few years ago after some priests decided to live there.
“For many years there was a whole group there with their own table where they could gather to eat,” Alvelais told the San Francisco Catholic. “The community that developed there became its own attraction.”
Past residents include the late Father Ray Zohlen, former pastor of the parishes of St. James and St. Raymond, the late Father Kirk Ullery, former pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes in San Francisco, and Father Bernie Brennan and Father Kevin Gaffey, both pastors of several Parishes in the Archdiocese of San Francisco and now deceased.
Archbishop of San Francisco, George H. Niederauer, lived at Nazareth House before his death in 2017, aged 80. According to Avelais, only three priests currently live there.
The “full Catholic” environment of Nazareth House with its high levels of community and care will not be easy to replace, she said. The closure “certainly further restricts our choices” for priests, but for all residents who valued it.
“People need to make more compromises,” she said, including leaving the area or exchanging a Catholic-run congregation for a secular, nonprofit or for-profit entity.
Sister Hoye said that despite the losses that are difficult to replace, the sisters believe they made the right decision.
“We believe that God is in that decision and that our mission never dies. It just takes a turn on the road,” she said.