Prior to the move to the current location on Windermere Road in London, Ontario, St. Joseph’s Hospice administration was located on Talbot Street. The building in which it was housed was known as the Great Talbot Street Estate, and had been purchased by the hospice in 2003. Therapeutic gardens and a memory walkway were part of the grounds. This location served as a resource centre, but did not provide residential care, while recognizing the need for it. St. Joseph’s Hospice came under the direction of the St. Joseph’s Health Care Society whose expertise in operating a ten bed hospice in Sarnia was integral to their involvement in the London hospice proposal.
On July 17, 2012, John Callaghan of the St. Joseph Health Care Society met with Sister Margo Ritchie, Congregational Leader and John Mockler, Business Administrator of the Sisters of St. Joseph. He was looking for property to purchase for the building of the first residential hospice in London. The Sisters did not have any property for sale. The meeting closed with the recognition that there were approximately 17 vacant suites at the Sisters’ residence at 485 Windermere Road. A casual comment was made that maybe they should create a hospice at this location. Sister Mary Diesbourg, Local Leader of the Sisters’ residence, was invited to join further conversation.
What began as a casual comment led to another meeting. This time, Peter Whatmore of CB Richard Ellis, the realtor searching for a site for the hospice, joined in the conversation. During this meeting, there were discussions about the pros and cons of housing the hospice in the Sisters’ residence. Those in attendance recognized that both Mr. Callaghan and the Sisters would need to consult with their respective constituents.
By August 2012, with the approval of the Congregational Leadership Team, the Sisters began an intense discernment process. They held a meeting with John Callaghan on August 22, 2012 at which time he was to bring responses to the many questions which the Sisters had.
The Congregational Leadership Team and other committee members were pro-active in learning more about hospice services, their potential impact on the day to day life of the Sisters in residence and also the capacity of St. Joseph’s Health Care Society to oversee St. Joseph’s Hospice.
The question and answer format became a very important part of the continuing dialogue between the Sisters and St. Joseph’s Hospice throughout the entire construction period. It was important at the beginning of the dialogue since it required the Sisters to consider and discuss the reality of sharing. This included use of gardens, recognition of the Sisters’ Horarium, entry and exit points, and the use of chapel and food services.
At the same time, another process was in motion. The Suites Committee - which had been formed in early 2012 to look for a short to medium term solution to the Sisters’ extra space issue - was first asked their opinion about a possible “partnering” with the hospice in two existing building wings, the East and North wings in the third floor of the residence. They had previously submitted a plan to the Leadership team in June 2012 that saw the Congregation housing guests, students and retreatants. The new idea of Hospice called the Sisters to rethink their plan regarding usage of space.
When the Leadership team agreed to look more seriously at the hospice idea, the first group with whom they consulted was the Suites Committee. Next, a small focus group of Sisters was involved in the discussion. Following these initial consultations to test the idea, the whole community at 485 Windermere Road met on several occasions to discuss the advantages and the disadvantages of partnering with the hospice in their home. The next step was to open the conversation to the whole Congregation. What they were really seeking was the movement of spirit in this communal decision. They looked at the long range actuarial of the community, the implications of sharing space and other possible uses of the space. The short time frame for decision-making was at first seen as an obstacle to good processing. In the end, the timeframe for decision-making was adequate.
Some considered the disruption to the life of the Sisters as an obstacle to having the hospice share the space in the Sisters’ residence. Often this comment came from Sisters living outside 485 Windermere out of concern for their friends. Some wondered if having people die on such a regular basis might further deplete the Sisters’ own sense of energy. Another concern was that they had moved into this new residence only six years prior, and the thought of renovating an almost brand new building seemed unimaginable.
In the end, after much discussion and the raising of all possible questions, the Sisters whole-heartedly endorsed inviting the hospice to share their space. Most compelling was the fact that they needed a long-term plan since they knew they could not administer another use of their empty space. Sisters felt that the hospice was in keeping with their charism. St. Joseph is the patron of the dying; and the Sisters have always wanted to be part of responding to an unmet need. In their history they saw a pattern of having people live with them from the earliest days at Mount Hope, when they shared their home with orphans and the elderly. The Sisters wanted to be part of creating something innovative in London. In short, the communal movement of spirit evoked a positive response to this venture.
On October 30, 2012, the Congregational Leadership Team wrote to John Callaghan expressing their whole-hearted support for this partnership. The hospice would become a tenant within their space. More significantly, both St. Joseph’s Hospice and the Sisters of St. Joseph knew that a possibility that was mutually beneficial had opened up before them.
In November 2012, the first official meeting of the representatives of the Sisters of St. Joseph and St. Joseph’s Hospice took place. In December 2012, there were three preliminary designs being considered for the new hospice, with the design by Alison Haney of Cornerstone Architects selected in early 2013. At the same time, Wendy Wilson was hired as the project manager for St. Joseph’s Hospice, and McKay Cocker Construction Ltd. was selected as the construction firm with Anita Verberk as the firm’s project manager. The two project managers worked closely together during construction. McKay Cocker Construction Ltd. also brought on board Pat Sullivan as the site superintendent. Initially, the proposed project completion date was set for October 2013 with an opening date for November 27th, 2013 and an open house on December 7th and 8th. It was anticipated that the hospice would receive their first resident by January 2014.
The construction firm did their site set-up in May 2013 to begin construction in June 2013, and kept to its schedule, but near the end of construction there were issues with parking and city zoning. There was an approximately 90 day wait for approval from the City which delayed the official opening.
As construction continued on the site, key personnel for the hospice were recruited. In May 2013, Dr. Joshua Shadd was hired as the hospice’s Medical Director with responsibilities in overseeing all clinical aspects of the hospice. In October 2013, the hospice hired Shirley Nieman as their Director of Residential Services and Julie Johnston as Executive Director.
Construction concluded on the ten-bed hospice in November 2013, with John Callaghan officially announcing to the Sisters on November 15th that construction was complete. The hospice administration moved from the Talbot Street location to the new location on December 6th and 7th of 2013. The hospice staff arrived on December 9th to unpack their office equipment. The move was undertaken by Campbell Bros. Moving. An official tour for the Sisters took place on December 16th, followed by the official opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony on January 13th, 2014. The first resident was received on the morning of Thursday, February 20th, 2014.