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Q&A with Sr. Sue Ernster at FSPA details

Q&A with Sr. Sue Ernster at FSPA

MAY 17th, 2022

As was highlighted in the premier issue of “News You Can Use”, Hoffman recently completed a multi-year, three-phase renovation of St. Rose Motherhouse for the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration (FSPA). We spoke with FSPA Vice President and CFO Sr. Sue Ernster to find out why the sisters undertook the project, what “lessons learned” they can share, and more.

Hoffman: Can you explain why the renovation project completed in February was so important to FSPA?

Sr. Sue: The project was part of how we enacted our assembly mandate to right-size our congregation and is part of our future planning. We looked at our Trends data knowing that we had two large buildings less than half full. We knew that as we moved forward, we would have fewer members and would not need both spaces. We realized it was not the best use of the assets we are stewarding to not use the buildings to their capacity. We discerned, as a congregation, that we wanted all of our members going forward—as space would permit—to be at our Motherhouse (St. Rose). That is where our perpetual adoration chapel is located, which is key to our charism of perpetual adoration.

Hoffman: What did you find was the biggest challenge with the project?

Sr. Sue: The biggest challenge was the fact that the plans we had for our building didn’t have everything as was actually in place in the building. This meant that some things were not caught until demolition or later and then needed to be replanned or another plan of action taken to address the issue. Also the toll of moving our elder sisters several times as we didn’t vacate the entire space.

Hoffman: What would you say was the greatest or most beneficial aspect of the project?

Sr. Sue: I would say accessibility to the building. Prior to the renovation there was only one entrance to the building that didn’t include steps. Now we have several accessible entrances and a larger elevator connecting all floors at the main accessible entrance. We also have the capacity for fuller need care now at St. Rose with a nurse call system and Wanderguard. We also have the ability to secure floors for privacy for the sisters from the public aspects of our ministry.

Hoffman: Now that the project is over, how do you feel the sisters handled it occurring in multiple phases with partial occupancy?

Sr. Sue: The disruption was more difficult than anticipated, especially as members aged and COVID hit along with quarantines. The wayfinding and necessary changes for dining and such got to be wearisome on the sisters.

Hoffman: What was the sisters’ greatest concern or worry with the project?

Sr. Sue: That we would have a product that would meet our needs and be as energy efficient as possible. The concern was that we had good plans. There were times when plans needed to be redrawn a couple of times, such as second floor phase two air flow.

Hoffman: Do you feel there were any “lessons learned” you can share with other congregations that might be considering a project similar to yours?

Sr. Sue: One of the lessons is to make sure you have accurate blueprints or plans for the space. Please make sure that members are aware as possible of the personal toll the disruption of living in renovation can take. Also, to have in place staff for the sisters and other staff to talk to about the stress that this could potentially have on them. Prepare for hiccups and potential delays along the way. Make sure to communicate more than you think necessary and frequently to sisters and staff about why the renovation is happening, why it is being designed the way it is and the progress.

Hoffman: Finally, how was Hoffman to work with? Any specific value FSPA received by partnering with Hoffman?

Sr. Sue: Yes, Hoffman was good to work with. Hoffman always came with a plan, able to support any questions that arose. They helped us answer questions regarding industry standards when it came to ADA showers. The value of partnering was knowing that we could call on them to work through an issue with a vendor such as trying to get our nurse call system to work to meet our needs. Hoffman staff offered to sit in and help in any way possible. Staff have accommodated our requests for meetings on very short notice. That is appreciated as it isn’t always possible.

The Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration selected Hoffman Planning, Design & Construction, Inc. to assist them in their planning efforts as well as provide comprehensive design and construction management services for the renovation of St. Rose Motherhouse. The project involved remodeling significant portions of the building and additions to accommodate skilled and memory care residents, new community spaces, wellness and support areas, dining and food service updates, additional guest rooms, and a green roof accessible for all sisters with direct access from the memory care floor. Accessibility features, including two new elevators—one at their primary entrance with a new drop off drive area and a second that provides direct access to the sisters’ private courtyard—were also part of the overall project.

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