Bishop Zarama blesses new Caritas Center at St. Joseph of the Pines

Bishop Luis Rafael Zarama of the Diocese of Raleigh recently blessed the Caritas Center, a $1.9 million residential expansion at St. Joseph of the Pines in Southern Pines that will soon be home to people in the early and middle stages of Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia.

“Caritas means love, so this new building will be a center of love,” Bishop Zarama said. “We ask God’s blessing upon all who will live here, their families and their friends. May they always be showered by His love.”

The center is named for Sister Mary Caritas Geary, a longtime member of the St. Joseph of the Pines Board of Directors who has served the nonprofit and its mission since the 1960s.

“I truly was speechless, as it was such a surprise,” Sister Caritas said. “While I am delighted and honored, I am more humbled than anything. There are so many local people who do so much more for St. Joseph than I can ever do from afar.”

Sister Caritas noted that she was given the name Caritas when she entered the Sisters of Providence more than 70 years ago “because of my devotion to St. Paul as a Novice.”

“The translation from Latin of my name is charity or love,” she said. “I am confident that the hallmark of the new center will be loving concern and compassion. So, aside from me, it is a most appropriate name.”

Lori Portfleet, president at St. Joseph of the Pines, said the Caritas Center epitomizes the nonprofit’s mission of “serving together in the spirit of the Gospel as a compassionate and healing presence in our community.”

“I can think of no better way for us all to fulfill this mission than by caring for people and families affected by this disease,” Portfleet said.

Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, the fifth in North Carolina and the third in Moore County, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

“Right now, more than one in three older adults in our country die with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, and the number of people with dementia will only grow every year,” Portfleet said. “The people that will be cared for in the Caritas Center, as well as their families, will come here for comfort, healing and hope.”

Bishop Zarama blessed the 6,950-square-foot addition to The Coventry, an assisted living building on the Belle Meade campus in Southern Pines, following the dedication on Nov. 7.

The addition includes 10 new rooms and four removated rooms for residents. Each room is about 330 square feet. Common spaces include a hearth room with a fireplace, a dining room, an activities area, a screened porch and an outdoor courtyard.

“We currently have an Alzheimer’s wing in our Health Center for people in the latter stages of the disease,” Portfleet said. “The Caritas Center will complement that program.”

Portfleet added that industry statistics show that adults over 85 years old “have a 50 percent chance of having some form of dementia.”

“We’re seeing more and more of that population in our community, as is the rest of the country, because people are living longer,” she said. “We feel the Caritas Center will position St. Joseph of the Pines to better care for those affected by these diseases.”

Founded by the Diocese of Raleigh in 1948, St. Joseph of the Pines is an aging services network that offers a full continuum of retirement housing, health care and community-based services for older adults as well as an extensive community outreach to those in need. Sponsored today by Trinity Health, it continues the healing ministry of the Catholic Church.