Sisters Offer Caring Presence at Good Shepherd Since 1900

For more than a century, the Sisters of the Good Shepherd have provided tender care to the varying residents of Good Shepherd in Wheeling.

Good Shepherd Nursing Home is now a five-star-rated nursing home, but when Good Shepherd opened in 1900 it was a home for girls staffed by the Sisters of the Good Shepherd. Today the remaining sisters offer care for the elderly residents of Good Shepherd Nursing Home with the same deep faith and kindness that they have always lavished on those in their care.

The Congregation of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd was founded in France in 1641 by St. John Eudes.

At the turn of the 20th century, five sisters traveled from Canada at the request of the Most Rev. Patrick J. Donahue, bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Wheeling, to open a home for girls in Wheeling. The original Home of the Good Shepherd consisted of two three-story wooden buildings at the end of Edgington Lane.

In 1912, the foundation was laid for the present structure into which the children and sisters moved in 1917. Over the past 116 years, as the needs of the area changed, the building served first as a home for little children, then becoming a residential school for girls, and finally a nursing home. The ongoing presence of the sisters has provided continuity to the high standards of care that have always distinguished Good Shepherd.

Sister Mary James Cody, at 93, the eldest of the sisters serving today at Good Shepherd, entered the congregation in Wheeling in 1950. At that time, about 60 sisters were caring for and educating more than 200 girls, from primary grades through their licensed four-year Our Lady of the Valley High School.

After its closing in 1970, the Most Rev. Joseph Hodges, bishop of Wheeling, enlisted the sisters’ help in opening the nursing home. When Good Shepherd Nursing Home opened in 1970, about eight sisters were actively involved in administration, nursing, housekeeping, food preparation and assisting with the spiritual needs of about 10 residents.

The staff and the number of residents have grown significantly since 1970, but the sisters continue their service of God and the residents of Good Shepherd. At Good Shepherd today are Sister Dena Kohlman, coordinator of the community; Sister Mary James Cody; Sister Catherine Gentile and Sister Carol Pregno. Pregno is the former Good Shepherd provincial, who is spending a sabbatical year in Wheeling. She also offers herself in the ministry when there is a need.

Today at Good Shepherd, the sisters are among the 20 chapel volunteers who serve as sacristans (who prepare the altar for Mass), extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist, altar servers and lectors.

The Rev. John Beckley, S.M., who is chaplain at Good Shepherd, celebrates Mass daily in the nursing home chapel. Cody and Gentile are among those who distribute Holy Communion to the Good Shepherd residents who are unable to attend Mass.

“Our order’s charism (which is a gift from God used to help others), is to work with and protect women and children,” Cody said. “At Good Shepherd, the sisters help to provide emotional and spiritual needs with mercy and compassion to the residents — occasionally accompanying a resident and his or her family when the resident is near death.”

Residents say they enjoy the sisters’ visits. “I always look forward to seeing the sisters,” one resident said. “They always have a smile and a kind word. It is a blessing that I can receive Holy Communion every day.”

Cody’s calm manner and inherent kindness are evident in her interactions with the nursing home’s residents. Although she is older than most of the people she visits, she continues to spend time with the residents. She radiates a gentle energy and is genuinely happy to see each person.

The presence of the sisters at Good Shepherd serves not only the residents but also the staff. They know the sisters care for them, are interested in their life and welfare and, more importantly, pray for them. They ask the sisters to pray for them and their needs. The kindness is reciprocal.

Donald R. Kirsch, administrator of Good Shepherd Nursing Home, praised the contributions of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd.

“The sisters are and have always been a blessing to us,” Kirsch said. “We are so grateful for their tireless efforts to make the lives of our residents happy and fulfilling.”

Located at 159 Edgington Lane in Wheeling, Good Shepherd Nursing Home is a private, nonprofit nursing home that has earned the coveted five-star rating from the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. It is part of a continuum of care that includes independent living and assisted living options offered by the Welty Home for the Aged Inc., a nonprofit organization.