Homes and palm trees ablaze in Skirball Los Angeles County California

About 100 religious sisters living at the Carondelet Center in Brentwood – a retirement home for the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet were asked to get ready to evacuate.

Faced with the danger of the Skirball fire, which had already destroyed several multimillion-dollar homes and damaged many more, crossing the 405 Freeway and racing up the hillside on which their retirement home sits atop; the sisters got ready to leave their  home.

Moving a large number of senior sisters from their mountain top retirement home was not an easy feat for the home’s administrator and staff.  The staff who work at of the retirement home volunteered to house many of the sisters in their own homes.  Administrators, nurses, caretakers, maintenance workers, any employee who had space offered to care for the sisters.

Skirball Fire on hillside moving towards 405 Interstate Freeway, Los Angeles County California

Sisters needing medical attention were transferred to other assisted living centers in Los Angeles and Orange counties.  Fifteen Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet are currently staying at our Nazareth House Los Angeles.

The Carondelet sisters are living together in a large, well-heated, dorm-like setup in our Activity Room. Getting ready for the sisters arrival at Nazareth House took planning.  Beds and linens needed to be rented, moved in, assembled, and made.  When the sister arrived, the St. Joseph Center Staff provided comfort and medical care for the sisters on rotating shifts.   Having familiar faces to provide care for the sisters while away from their home was comforting to the sisters.

Dorm-like view of room with hospital beds

The sisters are enjoy their meals in the dining room with the residents at Nazareth House.  “The food is really amazing here, it is so delicious.  We are so blessed to be here,” said Sister Rita.

“I am so glad we came here because there is a Chapel were we can attend daily Mass,” said one of the sisters who was sitting in the lounge room reading a book when I stopped to say “hello.”

Although the sisters’ living situations have been upended, the sisters are taking the evacuation in amazing stride.

“Dorm-like living is not the same as having the comforts of your own room but we have lived in dorms before and can do it again,” said one of the sisters.  “It is cozy living with sisters you know.”

Two elderly women sitting in wheel chairs chatting with each other.

Sister friend chimed in “Here we have a beautiful place to stay while other have lost their home, we are so blessed”

Sister Louis, a resident of the Carondelet Center met Angela, a resident of Nazareth House.  The fire had brought them together.

Angela and Sr. Louis have been friends for over 60 years!  The two went through high school and college together and managed to stay connected with each other by writing and phone calls.

When they saw each other at Nazareth House they could hardly believe their eyes.

“It’s a true miracle, we have been friends for so long; for as long as I can remember,” said Angela.  “What are my chances of finding Sister Louis right here?”

“I had a car in high school and we would ride everywhere together,” said Sister Louis.

It was so sweet to hear them continue the conversation laughing and talking; both taking a trip down memory lane.

Yes, what are the chances of a fire evacuation bring best friends together in an assisted living facility?

The Nazareth House staffs have invited the visiting sisters to participate in all ongoing events from daily Mass, to house activities, to the evening entertainment. The sisters are so gracious and have said “thank you” so many times.  The St. Joseph Staff have likewise expressed similar gratitude.

As welcome and comfortable as everyone has tried to make the visiting sisters and the St. Joseph staff, all will be returning the Carondelet Center when it is safe to do so.  For there is nothing more comfortable than knowing one is safe in one’s own home.