Catholic Homes: Speaking of Soul

17 Apr 2020

By The Record

By Catholic Homes

Is it only humans who have a soul? What about buildings, communities and organisations? These thorny questions have been the subject of much reflection for poets, playwrights, artists, theologians and philosophers for centuries and they often come up with contradictory answers.

Bernadette Brady, Executive Manager of Mission at Catholic Homes, shares: “What is common, however, is an acknowledgement that the mystery of soul endures beyond our ordinary life. In humans, soul becomes an integrative energy, uniting and connecting body, mind and heart and, for Catholics and other Christians, it is created and given to us by God”.

We talk about places having a soul and there is no denying we get certain feelings about our environment. Sometimes it is difficult to rationalise why we may feel uncomfortable in certain buildings and at ease and peaceful in others.

Churches, for example, are often places of serenity, even if you are not of the faith. But then is it a question of whether the place has soul or is it the interaction between humans with souls and the space that creates that sense of soul?

Recently, Catholic Homes has been reflecting on this question of where does soul live. The not-for-profit aged-care provider recently launched the redevelopment of its St Vincent’s site in Guildford.

The new building embraces a shift from the traditional aged-care model to a modern approach. The contemporary design nestles into its historic Guildford location just as the settlers did in 1829 in the Swan River colony.

The original Bebo Moro homestead remains on-site at St Vincent’s. The historic building was originally constructed in three stages between 1839 and 1930, and many of its historic features have been restored, including the Flemish bond brickwork, sash windows, bullnose verandahs, decorative skirting boards, plaster arches, and jarrah floorboards.

Just as the Bebo Moro homestead represents the historic significance of the era, so too does the name Bebo Moro, which is a Nyungar word for “bend on the river”. The restoration epitomises the grandeur of the era while honouring the souls of its past and present staff and residents.

Catholic Homes’ community-based wellness and re-ablement program is housed in Bebo Moro and the Day Therapy Centre and is facilitated by a team of Allied Health professionals under the Home Care packages.

Kylie Steele, Catholic Homes’ Executive Manager Home and Community Care, says: “Our Short Term Restorative Care program and Home Care Packages include access to the Wellness and Reablement Programme, including the Day Therapy Centre. Our personalised programs offer a range of services, including podiatry, occupational therapy and physiotherapy to assist existing Home Care clients to continue doing the things they love”.

The programs are also open to eligible members of the community.

The St Vincent’s site was purchased in 1957 by the Daughters of Charity and run as the St Vincent’s Hospital and a home for the aged. It was then later transferred to Catholic Homes in 1993 and, over time, the facility was developed into a traditional aged care facility.

While Bebo Moro reigns over the Swan River alongside the new two-storey building in all its glory, the old facility has been marked for demolition in April 2020. Parts of the original building have been repurposed, including artefacts from the chapel while the crucifix remains in storage until its final resting place in the new development is determined.

A sacred space has been created in the new building with a beautiful, custom-crafted portable altar to enable services to be carried out in various locations around the site.

The altar reminds us that God is wherever we are and wherever we gather. On Friday, 28 February, the new building was blessed by Perth Auxiliary Bishop Donald Sproxton. Local Wadjuk Noongar Elder Uncle Ben Taylor Cuermara conducted a traditional smoking ceremony.

An Industry Open Day, held on 6 February, was a great opportunity to share the success of the development with those who helped make the project a triumph, including members from the hospitality, technology, architecture, design and art industries.

“Wherever we gather, especially to intentionally focus on nourishment for our souls, things such as rituals and symbols help us reflect on our understanding of God. In a contemporary culture that is full of change and unpredictability, it is good to be reminded that God is at the centre of all things and accompanies us on all our journeys,” Bernadette said.

From pages 18 to 19 of Issue 24: Soul: ‘Nurturing the Spiritual Principle in Us’ of The Record Magazine