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Empowered Retirement Living: The Marian Way

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Marian Court residents Cedric and Denise Fernandes. Photo: Giovanni Portelli
Marian Court residents Cedric and Denise Fernandez. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

A Catholic retirement village is nurturing a greater sense of community through giving its residents more say

Less than a month after he took up the position of Chief Executive Officer of the Catholic retirement village, Marian Court, at Strathfield in Sydney’s inner-west, Anthony Watts was confronted with one of the greatest challenges of his career: navigating the village through the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The village, operated by the Trustees of Catholic Aged Care Sydney, accommodates over 50 residents over the age of 55 and prides itself on combining independent living with a strong sense of Catholic identity in a supportive, family-like environment.

Mr Watts wanted to make sure that all the public health requirements were closely met throughout the pandemic while ensuring that the residents could still enjoy that strong sense of community which Marian Court prides itself on.

“… we particularly liked Marian Court because of its proximity to Strathfield station and shops, while also maintaining a strong sense of community through a shared dining room, movie and trivia nights.”

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“I consciously wanted to engage the residents as much as I could in the decisions I made and so I enlisted a 10 member resident committee which put forward great plans from communal-style meals delivered to each door, evening drinks where residents could speak to each other outside across their balconies and a return to Masses as soon as the public restrictions were eased”, he told The Catholic Weekly.

Over two and a half years later and that distinctive emphasis upon empowering the residents to have a direct say in the life of Marian Court is very much bearing fruit.

The Chair of the Residents Committee, Mrs Anne Byrne has been living there for 14 years and said the genuine and authentic sense of community has flourished as a result of the pandemic and continues to grow.

Marian Courts CEO Anthony Watts. Photo: Giovanni Portelli
Marian Courts CEO Anthony Watts. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

“When I first came here with my husband, we were keen on maintaining our sense of independence and we particularly liked Marian Court because of its proximity to Strathfield station and shops, while also maintaining a strong sense of community through a shared dining room, movie and trivia nights”, she explained.

The village is proud of its Catholic identity with weekly Masses available in a chapel, celebrated by the Chaplain of nearby Concord Hospital, Fr Graeme Howard and local Columban priest Fr Reg Howard SSC. This includes Healing Masses on Wednesdays and a weekly Vigil Mass on Saturdays.

One proud Marian Court resident who has made a remarkable contribution to the Catholic Church in Australia is Josephite Sister Maria Casey RSJ who has been living at the Strathfield village for over three years.

“I feel very much at home here since every effort is made to ensure we all feel welcome as part of this place and that is at the basis of its Catholicity.”

An internationally respected canon lawyer, Sr Maria is perhaps best known as the final Postulator of the Cause of Australia’s first saint, Mary MacKillop and maintains her work with a range of Church bodies from her home office at Marian Court.

“What I like most about it is that it’s a place of retirement, rather than an aged care facility”, Sr Maria explained.

“I feel very much at home here since every effort is made to ensure we all feel welcome as part of this place and that is at the basis of its Catholicity. Whether Catholic, non-Catholic or with no faith at all, we’re treated here with fundamental dignity and respect as human beings”.

rom residents to friends: Marian Courts Joy Graham and Patricia Lynfield. Photo: Giovanni Portelli
rom residents to friends: Marian Courts Joy Graham and Patricia Lynfield. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

“St Mary MacKillop’s message was focused on human dignity, on doing unto others how they wish to be done unto you and to be kind to those who need care and I think that’s well expressed here at Marian Court”, she added.

Retired school teacher Mrs Anne Turpin settled into Marian Court 15 months ago after a 40 year career in Catholic schools across Melbourne and Sydney.

“I’ve found a comfortable place to be who I am, surrounded by great people. My faith is a very important part of my life and through living at Marian Court, I’ve been able to continue volunteering as a catechist in local public schools which has been a wonderful experience”, she said.

“It’s offered us a very independent lifestyle where we can travel where and when we need to see relatives and friends and always come back to a very friendly, supportive community.”

Married couple Cedric and Denise Fernandez have lived at Marian Court for seven years and said it was an easy transition for them from living in their own home in nearby Roselands.

“It’s offered us a very independent lifestyle where we can travel where and when we need to see relatives and friends and always come back to a very friendly, supportive community”, Mr Fernandez said.

“It’s so close to rail and bus transport and local shops and is full of very friendly people.”

For more information on Marian Court, please call the Manager on 04 000 777 81 for an appointment to inspect the one and two bedroom units that are currently available with a sliding scale of entrance and exit fees to suit your circumstances.

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