For 100 years, the Carmelite Home for Boys in Wauwatosa functioned as an orphanage and then a residential treatment facility for juvenile offenders from Milwaukee and other nearby communities.
But in 2019, the sisters changed course.
They’re now nearing the one-year mark of functioning as a home for women with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
“We thought, we nuns, we are the simplest people in the world,” said Sister Mary Brigid. “But these ladies teach us a lot. They teach us humility and simplicity. Sometimes we can make things in life so complicated, but their lives are just so simple.”
In recent years, the sisters said several problems with some of the juveniles the home served led them to look for a new mission.
They demolished the old home for boys and built a $4 million complex with 15 living units for women. The Carmelite Ministry of St. Teresa, 1215 Dewey Ave., Wawautosa, then began welcoming the women in October 2019.
‘A lot of joy’
Becca Fazio moved into The Carmelite Ministry of St. Teresa nine months ago. She said she loves talking and hanging out with her friends.
The women participate in a variety of activities throughout the day, including science class, music time, sewing class and a Zumba class.
Becca Fazio, 25, said her favorite activity of the day is sewing class. She also likes playing Jenga and talking with her friends.
“I also like that I get to hang out with the sisters and hang out with my friends here,” Fazio said.
Fazio moved into the facility in January from Cedarburg. Her parents visit frequently. But Fazio said she loves the independence of living alone.
Another of her favorite activities is cleaning her room and doing her own laundry.
“It’s pretty good being independent because it gets me to actually be able to do stuff,” she said.
To make it all happen, the sisters share roles and wear many different hats.
Sister Mary Brigid handles the classes and activities. She also helps with the maintenance of the facility and sleeps in the same building as the women.
Sister Miriam Teresa is in charge of the faith component of the ministry, as well as fitness classes and housekeeping.
Sister Rose Therese is the cook, and also helps with finances and fundraising.
Sister Mary Brigid teaches a class to the five women who live in the home.
Sister Rose Therese said the day is structured for the women, but they can also choose what to do or not do. Every day is different. The sisters said they are still learning from the women on a daily basis.
One of the main lessons they’re learning: Don’t take life too seriously.
“It made me realize those things that I take for granted, and I made things complicated, but it made me realize that life can be simple,” said Sister Rose Therese.
The women bring her “a lot of joy,” she added.
“Sometimes we make life so complicated, but they inspire us,” she said.
Sister Mary Brigid added that the goal of the home is to teach the women real-life skills.
The sisters said they focus on skills for their work life, social life, creative expression and spiritual growth.
“Nobody is telling them what to do, because here, they actually are free, but if they need something or if there’s a skill that needs to be worked on, we help them,” said Sister Mary Brigid.
“Everyone is so nice and kind, and they want to get to know you better and talk with you, and once they get to know you better, and you get to know them better, they’re awesome and good to be around,” she said.
Currently, 10 of the 15 units are still open. Three women are waiting to move in because of concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic.
“We didn’t expect COVID … nobody did,” Sister Rose Therese said.
In the spring, however, they’re planning to open a fitness center for both men and women with intellectual and developmental disabilities. There will be a fee for use of the center, but it’ll be open to the public.
The sisters are also still seeking donations for costs related to the new building.
Donate to the Sisters at – http://carmeliteministryofstteresa.org/donate/
Evan Casey can be reached at 414-403-4391 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @ecaseymedia.
Carmelite sisters serve women with disabilities
By Mary Farrow
Denver Newsroom, Oct 5, 2020 / 03:01 am MT (CNA).- When asked what life is like in a new home for women with intellectual disabilities, run by the Carmelite sisters in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, Sr. M. Rose Therese laughs affectionately.
“To quote Forrest Gump,” she said, “‘Life is like a box of chocolates. Every day – you never know what you’re going to get!’”
“They give us so much fun and inspire us every day,” Sr. Rose Therese said.
For 100 years, the Carmelite Sisters of the Divine Heart of Jesus in the Milwaukee suburb ran a home for boys that first served as an orphanage, and then as a residential treatment program for juveniles. After a difficult past 5 years, with the boys’ needs surpassing what the sisters could meet, the sisters decided to chart a new mission for the space.
After a meeting with their neighbors and local officials, Sr. Rose Teresa said they realized they were well-positioned to serve adult women with special needs.
The old boy’s home was demolished, and last fall, the sisters opened a home for women with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
The home is open to women ages 21 and up, and offers life skills classes on things like budgeting and sewing, as well as science classes, faith formation classes, and Zumba or other fitness activities. There’s also a daily rosary and rest time in the schedule, as well as weekend activities and night classes for the women who work outside the home during business hours.
These classes and activities provide structure, Sr. Rose Terese said, but the women are free to choose what they do or do not want to do.
Before the coronavirus pandemic, the women also had the option of attending daily Mass at the sister’s convent. Because of social distancing restrictions, that isn’t an option right now, Sr. Rose Therese said, but they are hoping to have them back as soon as possible.
The women’s favorite classes are the science classes, she said.
“They like to do the experiments. For the geography classes, they like to go to different places.”
The past year has been a difficult one to navigate, given everything that has happened with the coronavirus pandemic, Sr. Rose Therese added. The home has spots for 15 women, and only 5 of them are currently filled. Three women are on a waiting list, and will join the home once their families believe it is safe.
Sr. Rose Therese said the sisters have been mentored by another local ministry that has been serving people with intellectual disabilities for many years.
“Every day we learn something new, as each of them is different and each of them has very specific needs and disabilities,” she said of the residents. “We are here to help with whatever they need.”
She said the sisters are happy to be able to offer their residents a sense of independent living, especially after the age of 21, when many other services for people with intellectual disabilities end. Many of the sisters help out with the apostolate during the day, and one sister is always staying on campus overnight.
These women come from good families, Sr. Rose Therese added, who would otherwise worry what would happen to these women once their families are gone.
Dianne Schellinger, whose sister Janis is a resident at the home, said she found out about the home from a feature about the mission on local T.V.
“If anything happened to any of us we knew she would be extremely safe,” Dianne told WTMJ-TV Milwaukee.
“Just being with them, learning more about them, they bring us so much joy,” Sr. Rose Therese said. Resident Becca Fazio, 25, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that she likes the sewing classes offered, and she also likes to play Jenga and spend time with her friends.
“I also like that I get to hang out with the sisters and hang out with my friends here,” Fazio said. The sisters are planning to open up the classrooms and fitness center at the home to men as well as women, for faith formation classes and as a fitness center, once coronavirus restrictions are lifted.
As the impact of the Coronavirus continues to unfold around the world many non-profits are wondering what they can and what they should be doing. Symphony Advancement has gathered input and ideas from our non-profit clients around the country. Here’s what many of America’s leading non-profits are doing right now.
- Cancel or Suspend – With many states across the country moving toward “emergency” or “shelter in place” directives, organizations in areas with widespread prevalence of the COVID-19 virus, or a standing order from government health officials should cancel, suspend or plan on rescheduling any events or group activities occurring prior to May 4th, 2020.
- Communicate With Your Constituents – Every non-profit needs to be in communication with your client or constituent base as soon as feasible. If your organization has a disaster or crisis response plan it’s time to put it into action. If you’re handling things on the fly, our recommendation is to make use of: a) the web, b) social media, and c) email to contact supporters, community members, staff and volunteers. Even if you aren’t currently planning on making changes to your operations, it’s important to reach out to the community and let people know your current status, says Jeffrey Robb, Symphony Managing Director.
- Be Proactive – School district closures and shelter in place directives have many Americans staying at home for at least the next few weeks. With many of our clients unable to hold physical gatherings, we’re seeing an explosion of creative though around how non-profits can connect with the community using the web, social media and online platforms. New York’s Metropolitan Opera and the Paris Opera are offering free broadcasts of previously recorded Opera’s. The Berlin Philharmonic has also opened it’s digital vaults. Video productions, Facebook live broadcasts and digital content downloads are great ways to offer people something to do while keeping your organization in the community, said Robb.
- The Golden Rule for Non-Profits – ASK! It’s an old saying among fundraisers, you won’t receive a donation unless you ask. It’s time to ask! American’s are the most generous people in the world, giving by individual donors is the single largest source of non-profit income nationwide. In times of crisis, whether hurricanes or economic recessions American’s respond to people and organizations in need. Nearly all of our non-profit clients are conducting widespread emergency appeals. Activities range from appeal donation buttons on home pages, to electronic appeals, social media campaigns and GoFundMe pages.
- Explore New Revenue Opportunities – In many instances, community outreach can result in new ways for organizations to generate donations or income. The Milwaukee Repertory Theatre is currently making previously recorded content available (as suggested in number 3) for a fee of $15 per viewing. First Stage is encouraging donors and community members to purchase gift cards which may be redeemed later for Education Program tuition fees. The Pabst Theatre has created an employee emergency relief fund which has already generated an excess of $30,000. Jeffrey says, “The challenge for non-profits is to think differently about how you deliver your services. Are there mission related opportunities that can be leveraged with little or no investment,” he continued “I certainly wouldn’t advise groups to be making large investments at this point, but if there are ways you can leverage in-house resources, services and content – that’s certainly worthwhile to explore.”
(Vermont) Red Vault Film Productions launched a new non-profit venture dedicated to helping protect the environment through the creation of documentary film specials. The new organization “Planet Axis”, recently received tax exempt recognition from the IRS.
Wendy Reynolds Red Vault team member and president of Planet Axis explained the concept for the non-profit developed organically. Red Vault has a substantial portfolio of environmental features in addition to their corporate and commercial work.
(Greendale, WI) Twi Nite announced support from the WE Energies Foundation for its third annual Girls Sports Showcase. The event is a direct response from local parents concerned about the lack of opportunities for young girls to participate in team sports. Beginning in 2018 the parents gathered together along with college players and coaches to host an evening in which middle school girls could learn about the many benefits associated with participating in team sports.
Since first hosting the event, Twi Nite has watched enrollment in its girls softball teams skyrocket. The organization added five teams in 2018 and registered over 70 players in 2019. Opportunities are still available for corporate and non-profit partnerships in 2020.
Dave Blask, Commissioner of Greendale Twi Nite stated “We’re thankful for the support of the WE Energies Foundation and our many partners.” Twi Nite partners helping to promote the Girls Sports Showcase event include DICK’S Sporting Goods, J&J Contractors and MINT Hydraulics among others.
Blask urges parents to check the Twi Nite website regularly for information on the 2020 showcase event taking place in late February.
Greendale Twi Nite has grown to become Metro Milwaukee’s largest coed youth sports organization with players from 14 area communities. At Twi Nite it’s all about the kids, the organization which manages Spring and Summer baseball for two local park and recreation departments, also coordinates select teams, fall ball and special training clinics for coaches, umpires and players throughout the year.
Learn more about Twi Nite and register for team play by visiting the website.
(Wauwatosa, WI) Sister Rose Therese announced the Carmelite Ministry of St. Teresa (CMST) will receive a grant award from the Westerman Foundation in support of its programming to provide faith formation to women and individuals with disabilities.
The Carmelite Ministry of St. Teresa launched a $6 million capital campaign in 2017 designed to raise funds for the construction of a new family style residential center offering women with disabilities a safe place to live and grow in their faith.
Sister Mary Brigid, Director of the CMST commented that “many of the local non-profits are closed during the evenings and weekends. We found that for people with disabilities it was extremely difficult to get to Mass, socialize or even gather with others on a week night. The Sisters decided to help address this by forming the new ministry and focusing on serving women.”
Since beginning their campaign in 2017 the Sisters have attracted many national and local supporters including the Hilton Foundation and the Archdiocese of Milwaukee Faith in Our Future Fund. The new facility celebrated its grand opening this past October 15, 2019 with a special ceremony. Within just a few short months the first floor of the new facility is now completely occupied and residents are beginning to book rooms on the second and third floors.
Interested in learning more about the Carmelite Ministry of St. Teresa? Or learning how you can support the mission, click here to make a donation. Select opportunities for memorial gifts and recognition remain.
The Sisters also welcome your prayer intentions.
(York, PA) November 26, 2019 Lise Levin, Vice President of Community Investment announced a new grant to Family Promise of York Pennsylvania. Funding from the Memorial Health Fund will support the launch of the new Family Promise affiliate in York and is specifically designed to help homeless families with children throughout York County.
Chris Hamme, President of the York affiliate stated “We’re very grateful to Memorial Health and look forward to this partnership.”
Family Promise is recognized nationally as one of the most effective and efficient non-profits working to address homelessness. As a recipient of the Four Star Rating by Charity Navigator for over four years in a row, Family Promise has demonstrated impressive program outcomes. More than 80% of Family Promise constituents transition to permanent housing within a nine week period. Since inception over two decades ago, the organization has helped more than a million individuals nationwide.
“What makes Family Promise truly impressive is the proven model used to address homelessness for families with children,” Hamme stated. Across the more than 200 Family Promise chapters nationwide a standardized intervention is used which relies heavily on local volunteers and diminishes the need for capital investment.
The York County chapter of Family Promise was started in 2017 by a group of concerned local citizens seeking to address skyrocketing numbers of homeless children. Learn more about Family Promise and contribute to the York affiliate by clicking here.
(Tampa, FL) Award winning film maker Michael Campo announced the iChoose Foundation is currently seeking support for a new project #iChooseHOPE designed to help combat teen substance abuse. “The iChoose HOPE project is focused on the story of Eddie, how he’s struggled with addiction, his advice to others and ultimately how day by day he’s making progress – one choice at a time,” says Campo, “I wanted people to remember that no matter how bad it seems or how dark, alone or isolated you feel, you can change your life. It starts with one decision.”
Campo’s iChoose Foundation has been quick to gain support from a variety of national partners including: The Florida Symphony Orchestra, Green Bay Packers organization, the Tampa Bay Rays and others.
The foundation produces high quality resources for teens and individuals struggling with a variety of issues ranging from addiction and substance abuse to human trafficking. With an extensive social media presence, the iChoose Foundation is able to reach people and offer help around the country.
Campo estimates the cost of each project near $30,000. If you are interested in learning more about how you can support the iChoose Foundation please visit their website. Also be sure to check out the weekly broadcast sharing inspirational stories of individuals making positive life choices.
(Wauwatosa, WI) Sr. M. Immaculata announced today that the Hilton Foundation awarded a major grant to the Carmelite Sisters of the Divine Heart of Jesus in support of the new Carmelite Ministry of St. Teresa (CMST). The new ministry officially opened its doors to the public on October 15th, 2019 in a formal grand opening ceremony. The $6 million dollar facility will provide a family style residential environment for women with disabilities.
The Sisters were featured during a special segment on Today’s TMJ 4 with Julia Fello.
In addition to the residents, the new CMST center offers ample class and event space and will provide community based programming available to the public.
The Sisters felt called to the new ministry based on feedback from the community suggesting a lack of local resources providing housing and services to disabled persons. The community response has been strong, with a number of residents officially moving in immediately following the grand opening ceremony.
Guests are welcome to visit the impressive new facility and encouraged to explore ways to help the Sisters in their ministry. Volunteers and donors are welcome.