By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — Mother Angeline Teresa wanted a home-like atmosphere for senior residents she served in the Bronx, N.Y., in the early 1900s.
A Little Sister of the Poor at the time, Mother Angeline implemented changes that not all of the sisters agreed with. So she set out, with permission from Rome, to form the Carmelite Sisters for the Aged and Infirm in 1929.
On Sept. 3 of this year her community at the motherhouse in Germantown, N.Y., and all of the community’s facilities, including the Kahl Home in Davenport, celebrated 90 years of service. Bishop Thomas Zinkula celebrated Mass at the Kahl Home to mark the milestone.
Today, four Carmelite Sisters for the Aged and Infirm minister at the Kahl Home, which offers long-term, short-term and restorative care. A new therapy department also opened at the home on Sept. 3.
Sister M. Lois Joseph Baniewicz, OCarm, and Sister Jacqueline Wagner, OCarm, entered the Carmelites together in 1961. “We came to the Kahl Home when it was just the mansion (on Ninth Street) in 1959,” said Sr. Wagner. The two were just beginning their journey to enter the Carmelite order. “We came as volunteers before Interstate 80 was an interstate,” the two laughed.
Sr. Wagner has served at the Kahl Home for eight years. Sr. Baniewicz has served there for about 30 years – during five different stints, she noted.
Mother Angeline’s concepts of married couples being able to live together, of residents having a beauty parlor on site, celebrating feast days and enjoying little parties might not seem extraordinary today, but those ideas were unheard of in the 1920s. “Mother was ahead of her time,” Sr. Baniewicz said.
The assisted living concept has emerged at the Kahl Home in recent years because people are living longer. In the 1920s, if someone had a stroke or other major health issue, they typically didn’t survive as long as people do today with advanced medical technology.
At one time, the Carmelites had 23 homes in the U.S. and one in Ireland. Today 16 Carmelite homes operate in the U.S. and one in Ireland. The Carmelites once had 500 sisters; today the community has 155 sisters and three novices.
“I admire Mother Angeline,” said Kahl Home Administrator Kim Hufsey. “She came to the U.S. and lived in the (Great) Depression. She started her own order. She was shy and asked for donations. Through God’s help she could do anything.”
The four sisters who work at the Kahl Home just don’t walk around visiting, Hufsey noted. “They are the hardest workers here.”
Sr. Baniewicz works in the compliance department and handles complaints. Sr. Wagner works in purchasing, conducts clinicals and visits. Sister Constance Richards, OCarm, is the life enrichment director and is also a CNA (certified nurse assistant). “She keeps the residents active,” Hufsey said. Sister M. James Teresa, OCarm, serves in pastoral care with Father William Kneemiller, the Kahl Home’s chaplain. She visits residents, helps feed those who need assistance, and even works switchboard, Hufsey chuckled.