Last week, I was visiting Signature HealthCARE at St. Peter Villa, in Memphis, Tenn., to see how our newest long term care revolution was progressing, but this one has always had extra special meaning to me. After being part of teams who have assumed responsibility by acquiring nearly 100 long term care facilities over the past decade, this one means the most because I felt a deep calling to serve on this sacred campus from day one.
Several years back, we had a meeting with the Archdiocese of Memphis because they were thinking about divesting of their mission-based long term care facility. The facility started as a Catholic orphanage, dating back to 1888, that raised and placed numerous children over 80 years. They expanded their mission and added a nursing home for the community elderly in the early 1980s. (In the 1960s, the impact of Roe vs Wade reduced the need for orphanages throughout the U.S. and St. Peter’s mission was reduced to serving the neighborhood seniors from the east side of the city).
From early childhood I have been fascinated with anything that might help me better understand my mysterious birth story, my magical placement with Elmer and Mary Louise Steier, and how the thousands of little children like myself were processed through the Catholic ministries prior to the famous mother Jane Doe (Norma McCorvey), who believed that a desperate mother with independence issues needed a choice. Her decision created the epic Roe v. Wade trial that has impacted thousands since the ruling was decided. That single case started the rapid closing of this famed institution and St. Joseph’s, in Louisville, where my adoption was processed 46 years ago.
Since we acquired the campus and the operation, St. Peter has left a small museum of artifacts, pictures, and newspapers stories. Also remaining is part of the original orphanage bathing system and kids’ sleeping quarters that I always take time to visit with Betty, our longtime SHC historian. We study each child’s face thinking without the charity of hope and love, these smiling faces on every wall would never have entered the world. I feel like I can hear the kids of John Irving’s Cider House Rules any time I walk these halls.
Here, I always feel tears of emotion because I know how blessed my journey has been and how many lives have been touched in various ways by this complex social issue. I never want to judge anyone – ever – but I just feel blessed to have a chance to experience life at all. God tells me that our Revolution is here to serve just like the generations before us, regardless of whether it’s helping to raise newborns like the Catholic sisters did decades ago, or now taking care of the greatest generation ever with the Signature Revolution…
However, today when I walk the campus it is not the same mission that started 125 years ago – but it is still a calling to serve. Yes, there have been many former orphans who returned here late in life because their spiritual journey started here. There are also thriving seniors, and everyone on the campus today is pushing their rehab limits to get home next week. I enjoyed a packed happy hour, which gave me time to visit with every SHC customer, talking football, and seeing Signature Silver Angels leaders upstairs taking another personal house call to bring meals into another neighborhood shut in…it feels like a social movement, not a business!
Our Signature stakeholders do such a great job that I see them just like the Catholic sisters performing their own vocation, side by side. The bathtubs are bigger now, the beds are larger and electric, but the spirit of the St. Peter campus is roaring just like the old days. Life is a full circle for all of us – dependent babies become passionate contributors, blessed adults find vocations, and we will all get old and pray there is someone waiting to take care of us…