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The administrator of Garvey Manor, Sister Joachim Anne Ferenchak, of the Carmelite Sisters for the Old and Sick, entered religious life in 1967. Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski

In Youngstown, Ohio, there was a large portrait of St. Therese von Lisieux, a French Catholic nun with a Carmelite, in Joseph and Mary Tokasz Ferenchak’s bedroom. Today the same portrait comforts her daughter Theresa Ann, known today as the Carmelite Sister M. Joachim Anne Ferenchak, Administrator and CEO of Garvey Manor and Residence of Our Lady of the Alleghenies.

Sister Joachim oversees Garvey’s second major expansion during her 24-year tenure in Hollidaysburg.

Sister Joachim, the fourth of the couple’s six children, said that her mother only told her the story behind the painting of the saint when she entered the Carmelite convent for the elderly and the sick.

Mary Ferenchak was pregnant with her third child and kept having dreams about St. Therese that asked her to come closer. A portrait of St. Therese – that matched Mary’s dream – was put up for sale and the couple bought it and agreed to name the child Theresa. They had a son, but when their fourth child was a girl, Theresa Ann kept her promise.

“I feel predestined even before the birth” Sister Joachim said. “I knew from a young age that I would enter religious life.”

Her cousins ​​remember that she wanted to play “To be in the church” or “To be the nun who taught in school” She said. “I felt called to a personal relationship with Christ” early in her youth, she said.

As a high school student, she volunteered in an institution where the Carmelite Sisters looked after the elderly “Gave me a clearer direction that this is what God has called me to be in my life.”

Garvey staff, Joann Kasun, second assistant administrator, and Holly Keller, development director, say that interacting with the Carmelite Sisters, and specifically with Ferenchak, enriched their faith and improved their careers.

“Sister Joachim” Basement said: “is amazing. Everything here starts with a prayer to ensure that mission and service are at the center of everything we do. This is what makes Garvey special and different. You feel the presence of service and it guides you every day.”

As a 27-year-old employee, Kasun was working in the human resources department when Ferenchak joined as the new administrator. Kasun described Ferenchak as “Extremely intelligent, very intuitive and believing and mission-driven leader.”

Sister Joachim selected Kasun for leadership training in the Carmelite Mission and also through Penn State for a license to become a nursing home administrator – a five-year process.

“Without my sister I would not have made it … she supported and encouraged me” Said Kasun.

The two had always had a positive relationship when Kasun served as HR director.

“I remember in one of my performance reviews she said that she appreciated that I didn’t always agree with her. I felt comfortable with her and she gave me confidence that if I didn’t agree with her, it wouldn’t be a black mark on my career. “ Said Kasun. “I also knew when to stop disagreeing because the money stops with your decision. But I could ask a question about your decision and get an honest answer. “

Kasun described Sister’s work ethic as tireless.

“She is absolutely committed and committed to the residents” Said Kasun. “She has dedicated her life to the residents.”

When Sister Joachim chose her Carmelite name; She chose Maria Joachim Anne: Maria for the mother of Jesus and Joachim (pronounced Joe-a-kim) and Anne for the parents of Mary – and the grandparents of Jesus.

“I took this name because I worked with the elderly and thought there were no better patron saints than the mother and grandparents of Jesus. The Apostolic Ministry for (a) Carmelite Sisters is intended to care for and care for the elderly in long-term care facilities. “

The ministry is only active in the field of geriatrics.

After completing her religious education, Sister became a nurse in 1975 and earned a four-year nursing degree in 1983.

“To be able to serve the frail, vulnerable elders whom I believe God has entrusted to me, and to ensure that they are treated with respect and compassion in a very personal way, is the most satisfying way of life, that I can imagine “ She said. She said it was “An honored life experience.”

The COVID-19 pandemic changed lives at Garvey Manor, where 56 residents and 70 employees were infected with the virus. The administrator praised their staff for “Do a hero job” and said the pandemic had changed its service as it could not welcome every new resident and family.

“Prayer keeps me sane in the chaos of a pandemic so that I can work with a positive attitude rather than in panic mode.” She said.

Sister Joachim oversees Garvey’s second major building expansion, but remains modest.

“Everything that has happened for good here is because God directed it and the people here responded. If we don’t follow the direction of the Holy Ghost, we can get ourselves into trouble. “ She said.

Sister Joachim said she had been through one “Dark Period in the Late 1980s” a time she doesn’t regret because of it “Made me a stronger person who has more trust and trust in God. In the dark ages I realized that I rely more on myself than on God. In reality, it is when you act in faith – not in feeling – what sustains me in troubled times. If you do not walk the path of the cross to Golgotha, you will not be able to celebrate the joy of Easter. “

The Ferenchak file

Name: Sister M. Joachim Anne Ferenchak

Age: 72 years

Place of residence: Hollidaysburg

Family: Carmelite Sisters for the elderly and the sick; entered religious life in 1967.

Education: Bachelor of Science in Nursing from College of Mount Saint Joseph, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1983; Masters Degree in Health Services Administration from Saint Joseph College, Standish Maine, 1995.

Career: Administrator and CEO of Garvey Manor and Our Lady of the Alleghenies Residence.

Awards: Awarded the Gallitzin Cross by the Diocese of Altoona Johnstown.

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