In 1956, when a community of Catholic sisters broke ground for Camilla Hall outside Philadelphia, their move to ensure retirement and nursing care for elderly and frail sisters was the subject of lively debate.
After all, vocations to the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Immaculata, Pa., were growing. Immaculata College (now a university) and a girls' preparatory school founded by the order, Villa Maria, were flourishing on the group's 420-acre campus.
"There was discussion [among the sisters] that we'd never need this retirement community," said Sr. Anne Veronica Burrows, adding that at the time the order of educators, evangelists and catechists numbered roughly 2,400 members.
Now there are around 800 sisters, said Burrows, who served for 12 years as the community's treasurer, responsible for supervising the order's "temporal resources," which include property and finances.
Almost 60 years on, in an environment in which vocations are generally shrinking and many religious orders face the challenge of providing for their frail and elderly members, the move to build Camilla Hall before the construction of the motherhouse across King Road seems prescient.