For 96 years Rose-Mary has ministered, nurtured and supported the needs of individuals with disabilities, in partnership with Catholic Charities, throughout the Diocese of Cleveland.
On May 30, the Rose-Mary staff and residents of the Intermediate Care program welcomed Bishop Nelson Perez as he and Patrick Gareau, president of Catholic Charities, Diocese of Cleveland, toured two homes where youth from age 7 to adulthood share an atmosphere of love, family, dignity and faith.
The bishop was welcomed by Gina Kerman, Rose-Mary executive director, and Carl Vondracek, clinical director, as he began his tour at a Rose-Mary home in a South Euclid neighborhood. The home, which opened in 2016, is equipped with technology that empowers individuals with disabilities to live more independently and have control in their own environment. From kitchen appliances to furniture, the use of sensory activation simplifies everyday living for those who occupy the home.
“Everything at this home is comforting,” Kerman explained. “The street is inviting. Once the home was finished, the neighbors purchased a tree in memory of the home’s previous owner and it was planted in the front yard. The large amount of space to move wheelchairs within the family room or by the pantry during snack time may seem like a small thing, but it has positively elevated the behavior of our kids.”
Kerman described how the children’s anxiety level decreased significantly by the change in their environment. Rose-Mary transitioned from a 40-bed, large-scale facility that mirrored a skilled nursing manor to seven individual homes with four to six residents in each home. In the previous facility, residents shared bedrooms as pairs or triples. In the new and renovated homes, each child has his or her own room, decorated with favorite themes such as Star Wars or the Cleveland Cavaliers.
“The home is engineered to be completely accessible and provide comfort to live an everyday life,” Kerman said.
Minutes after he arrived, Bishop Perez greeted three of the six young residents when buses and vans brought them up the driveway after they attended classes at nearby schools. Instantly, the home was filled with activity. The children were excited to see “Miss Gina,” as those who are verbal refer to Kerman. Staff members, who work one-on-one or two-to-one with the youngsters, helped them open sensory laptop devices and assisted with after-school snacks.
“This is the work of the Church,” the bishop said, adding that Rose-Mary is a living, breathing mission committed to the ministry of Jesus Christ.
Rose-Mary officials said their goal is to ensure that the atmosphere nurtures individuals with disabilities and takes an integrated, faith-based approach to connecting residents with living life to its fullest potential.
The Rose-Mary mission also integrates residents as members of the community, which includes providing worship and connectedness with churches in the diocese. Parishioners from St. John Bosco Parish in Parma Heights visit and interact with residents at the home in Parma Heights.
The afternoon concluded with a stop at the site where Rose-Mary Center began its ministry in 1922. A sprawling campus developed from the summer home that Ceasar Grasselli, a prominent industrial leader in Cleveland in the early 20th century, deeded to the diocese after his wife’s death. Under Catholic Charities, the Sisters of the Humility of Mary began caring for children with physical and mental disabilities.
“The name Rose-Mary comes from Grasselli’s wife, Johanna, who had a deep devotion to Mary,” Kerman said. “As a sign of her devotion, she planted a large rose garden on the property.”
Although the original site is closed, the work of Rose-Mary continues, Kerman said.
For more information on Rose-Mary facilities and services, or to make a donation in support of the mission, visit rose-marycenter.com.