CHARLESTON — The groundbreaking and blessing for the St. Joseph Residence at the Carter-May Home Feb. 24 was an intergenerational affair.
The female residents of the home were joined in celebration by retired priests, children of St. John School choir from North Charleston, Our Lady of Mercy nuns, and a third generation descendent of one of the residence’s namesakes.
“I remember my grandmother’s silver teas every year to raise money for the home,” said Msgr. James A. Carter. “She is probably smiling happily today to see that the seeds she planted are bearing fruit.”
The addition of the priest wing and additional facilities for lay people represents a very different chapter for Carter-May. It was founded March 17, 1929, when Msgr. James J. May and his sister, Marie T. May, received permission from Bishop William T. Russell to use the former location of Cathedral School at 120 Broad St. as The Charleston Home for Senior Ladies. Mary Reynolds Carter, Msgr. Carter’s grandmother, was elected as chairman of its board of directors and became one of its most devoted and generous benefactors.
The first residents were able to attend to themselves but needed the security of residential care. The Benevolent Society through offerings collected during Lent, from parishioners and other donors, supported the home. It initially housed 12 ladies.
Along with the teas by Mrs. Carter, Miss May raised funds by distributing “Lenten Mite Boxes” and holding an annual apron sale.
Mrs. Carter’s daughter, Dr. Patricia Carter, recalled weekly trips to the home and how it was very much a community-supported effort.
“Nobody made huge amounts of donations; they just pitched in and did what they could,” she said.
The 87-year-old remembered her father, who also helped out, used to joke that her mother was always taking household items to the residence for the ladies.
“My father used to say if anything is missing in this house go to the old folks home; it’s there,” she said.
Her memories of the Catholic Women’s Home are fond ones.
“I’d say ‘mom I can’t go today I promised my friends we would go down to the battery,'” Dr. Carter said. “She’d say ‘no battery today.’ It was a wonderful time in my life because I felt as though I was doing something to help people. And that’s where I got my hope to do something in medicine.”
The home’s name changed in 1965 to honor the co-founders. The Carter-May Home has seen many changes over the year, moving from the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist to 117 Broad St. in 1963. In 1969 it was moved to the Carlton Arms apartments at 59 Vanderhorst St.
The home returned to 117 Broad St. the following year and was licensed by the S.C. Department of Social Services. It finally ended up at its current location at 1660 Ingram Road, the former convent of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul in 1971. Some of the priests who served as chaplains to the residence were Father May from 1954 to 1958, Father Joseph L. Bernardin from 1959 to 1962, Father Thomas R. Duffy from 1963 to 1971, Father William C. Burn from 1972 to 1975, and finally Father Charles J. Kelley who served in 1978.
The idea of community residential care for the elderly remains very much the same with the addition of retired priests, according to Janine Bauder, Carter-May’s administrator.
“This is a family,” she said. “The residents take care of each other.”
She said that the staff also makes the Carter-May Home a special place because the staff is committed to their work and the people who live there.
During the groundbreaking ceremony, Bishop Robert J. Baker said the facility was the first of the diocese’s commitment to the elderly. He said the diocese is investigating a project in the Columbia area with the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine.
“This is a happy day for us as a diocese as we attempt to pay tribute to the priests who are retired after having served us well,” Bishop Baker said. “Today we show them concretely that we appreciate what they have done for us through the years by providing a place for them to assist them when they cannot get around easily by themselves.
“We also recommit ourselves to helping our senior citizens at Carter-May by upgrading their home and making available more rooms for people interested in residing here.”
He even joked that he had already picked out his rocking chair for when his day and time came to retire.
“Sooner or later we will all be in need of support,” he said. “Continue to pray for this important effort, and support it with your time, talent, and treasure.”
Donations have already reached $1.7 million for the $2.5 million project. Building is scheduled to start in the spring and hopes for completion of the first phase have been set on November 2003.