Archdiocese Local Parishes

Ah, the good life

Former Leaven freelancer discovers Santa Marta

by Joe Bollig

OLATHE — The kids were long since grown and her husband Ken had died in 2001. Leslie Nordin was alone.

And at first, the Curé of Ars, Leawood, parishioner was OK with that.

“The first time I got to drive the riding lawn mower, I thought, ‘Whee!’” she recalled. “But after several years, it was just one more darn thing that needed to be done.

“The same with vacuuming and cleaning.”

Nordin, one of The Leaven’s contributing writers for a number of years, found herself in situation familiar to many seniors. Her four-bedroom, three-bathroom family home had become a liability.

“Why keep a house that was more than I was using?” asked Nordin.

She had two options — move in with one of her kids, or find a more manageable place where she could maintain her independence.

Fortunately, a new retirement community in Olathe, named Santa Marta, opened in 2007. Nordin moved there just after Thanksgiving 2007.

“I love all my kids to death — I have six of them — but I don’t want to live with them,” said Nordin. “I’m very happy to have made this decision myself, rather than to have my kids making it for me five or 10 years down the road.”

“There’s assisted living and full nursing care [at Santa Marta] if you need it,” she continued, “so I figured this is the last [major] decision they or I am going to have to make.”

Today, Nordin shares a cozy, four-room apartment at Santa Marta with her black lab, Piper, who enjoys strolling the facility’s 50 acres. Nordin, on the other hand, likes the fact that she need only step through her ground-level outside door to walk the dog.

And when Nordin’s not taking the air with Piper, she’s out in the community — the growing Santa Marta community, that is.

A resident can do everything from dine and exercise to bank and socialize without ever leaving the 401,500-square-foot main building, and its 138 independent-living apartments.

Almost like a self-contained small town, Santa Marta lacks only retail opportunities. Fortunately, there’s plenty of that accessible by bus in nearby Olathe and Overland Park.

Santa Marta was conceived as a partnership between the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas and Greystone Communities, Inc., which builds and manages communities like Santa Marta.

Santa Marta is a continuum of care community. This means it offers different kinds of living arrangements, including apartments for independent living for seniors like Nordin, assisted living, memory-support units, and a skilled nursing facility.

One of the big draws for Nordin was that Santa Marta is pet-friendly. She also likes the amenities, services and activities.

Nordin can attend daily Mass in the chapel, have her hair done at the beauty salon/barber shop, pick up a snack at the deli, host her family in one of the private dining rooms, take a dip in the indoor pool, continue the rehabilitation of an injured ankle in the physical therapy/exercise room, dine restaurant-style, or socialize with her peers in various activities — like the recent Cinco de Mayo mixer on the patio.

“I signed up for everything at first, and now I’m gradually cutting back because there aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything they offer,” said Nordin. “They have a bus and take people on field trips, and so on.”

When Nordin was contemplating a change in her lifestyle, she was aided by some valuable advice from her daughter, an attorney in Scottsdale, Ariz. Her daughter had researched a similar Greystone community for the parents of a friend. Impressed, she wrote her mother saying, “If you can afford it, this is the way to go.”

After several months at Santa Marta, Nordin is more than happy with her decision. She’s comfortable and secure, yet independent, and as busy as she chooses to be. Best of all, she doesn’t have to touch a lawnmower for the rest of her life.

Santa Marta blessed by archbishop

OLATHE — For many residents of Santa Marta here, moving to the retirement community is literally a blessing. That’s because one of the most appreciated amenities at Santa Marta is its chapel.

The archdiocesan-sponsored venture features a Catholic chapel that seats 100 and an assigned chaplain, Msgr. Ray Burger. Father Robert Pflumm also celebrates Mass for the residents.

The schedule, which includes a 4 p.m. daily Mass and a 10 a.m. Sunday Mass, are for residents only.

“The fact that we have daily Mass and a priest is wonderful,” said Jo Ann Mulligan, a former Curé of Ars, Leawood, parishioner. “It’s the best way to spend the last years of your life.”

“In so many [retirement homes], even though they may be church-sponsored, the chapel is just kind of ‘a space,’” she continued. “Here, it’s a place of spirituality.”

On May 5, Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann was at the Santa Marta chapel to preside at a blessing of the entire community. He was joined by Msgr. Tom Tank and Msgr. Gary Applegate, who served as master of ceremonies. Archbishop Emeritus James P. Keleher, Abbot Barnabas Senecal, OSB, and several priests of the archdiocese were also present.

In his homily, Archbishop Naumann praised Archbishop Keleher, Msgr. Tank, members of the Santa Marta task force and board, and all those who helped take the community from vision to reality.

About the author

Joe Bollig

Joe has been with The Leaven since 1993. He has a bachelor’s degree in communications and a master’s degree in journalism. Before entering print journalism he worked in commercial radio. He has worked for the St. Joseph (Mo.) News-Press and Sun Publications in Overland Park. During his journalistic career he has covered beats including police, fire, business, features, general assignment and religion. While at The Leaven he has been a writer, photographer and videographer. He has won or shared several Catholic Press Association awards, as well as Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara awards for mission coverage. He graduated with a certification in catechesis from a two-year distance learning program offered by the Maryvale Institute for Catechesis, Theology, Philosophy and Religious Education at Old Oscott, Great Barr, in Birmingham, England.

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