Sisters of St. Anne live and serve at local retirement community

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MARLBOROUGH -- Tucked away on the wooded grounds of New Horizons at Marlborough, a group of the Sisters of St. Anne remains in service.

For the past five years, 22 of the sisters from the local province have lived in the MetroWest retirement community. They not only participate in the many activities New Horizons offers but also play a leadership role within the campus' substantial Catholic population.

"With an on-site chapel and daily services, New Horizons has always attracted residents who want to participate in faith-based activities," Executive Director Betsy Connolly said. "The sisters add to that, helping them feel more connected with their faith."

One sister in particular is very involved overseeing all of the chapel activities. For residents for whom it is challenging to visit the chapel, such as those in the memory care program, several sisters make "house calls." They bring these residents Communion, say prayers with them, and sometimes just sit with them.

A couple of the sisters help visit residents receiving hospice care. One of them spent her whole ministry years providing this type of care, and both can bring comfort to someone at this stage of life.

Other residents appreciate having someone to confide in about life, family, or aging. Talking with one of the sisters may help that resident remember, their beliefs, and appreciate what they have.

One sister is a career nurse, while another is a massage therapist. After their move to New Horizons, the sisters brought their skills and expertise with them.

"We don't retire," said Sister Paulette Gardner. "We just continue through our ministry of prayer, presence, and service."

Beyond Catholic Masses, the sisters participate in many of the other activities at New Horizons. A few of them are part of the community's gardening group. Others attend various entertainment events or lectures. Some of them are also avid walkers and enjoy strolls around the grounds while greeting the residents sitting on their private patios.

Although the sisters have a large presence, they are a small group among the more than 400 residents at New Horizons, which offers independent apartments and assisted living, along with memory care.

Ownership by one of the region's largest philanthropies, Cummings Foundation, conveys unusual stability to this not-for-profit senior living community. It currently has a "rate lock," ensuring no increase to residents' monthly room and board fees for at least six years.

The campus provides a variety of daily activities, including "watercising" in its indoor lap pool, book and cinema clubs, trivia, and large-screen theaters. There's also a hair salon, three dining rooms, areas to display resident art, and cooking and baking competitions.

In addition to Catholic services, the secular community offers regular Jewish and Protestant services.

The campus has had a strong presence of Catholic sisters from the time Cummings Foundation bought the property, which used to be Madonna Hall School for Girls. A different order, the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, operated the school and lived on site. These sisters were invited by Cummings to stay rent-free, which they did for about two decades.

For the Sisters of St. Anne, they hope to continue to provide a link to Catholic faith and a source of companionship to the residents. Before their arrival, they lived separately, which was isolating for some of them as they aged.

"New Horizons has given us a place to age in place together, which has been a welcome opportunity," said Gardner. "We can continue to be who we are as vowed religious women and simply enjoy all that this community has to offer."

Prospective residents and their families are encouraged to contact New Horizons at 508-460-5200 to arrange a time to tour the campus, meet current residents and staff, and sample a home-cooked meal. More information is available at