Catholic Charities of Metuchen to build affordable housing for seniors

March 6, 2020

Bishop James F. Checchio and Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Newark, were joined by civic and community leaders at a groundbreaking ceremony for the St. Paul the Apostle Senior Residence Feb. 25.

The 42,788-square-foot facility will provide 42 affordable housing units for residents 62 and over and is expected to open in the fall, said John Westervelt, president of Domus Corporation who served as emcee at the groundbreaking.

The three-story facility will be built on the site of a now-demolished annex building formerly owned by Our Lady of Peace Parish.

St. Paul the Apostle Senior Residence is a project between the Domus Corporation and Metuchen Community Services Corporation, an agency of Catholic Charities, Diocese of Metuchen.

Domus serves as the housing development corporation on all permanent-housing initiatives for the Archdiocese of Newark. The Senior Residence is the 13th Domus project since the not-for-profit corporation was founded in 1995 and the first in Middlesex County. All individuals served by Domus’ facilities are considered low income by federal poverty standards.

Domus receives financial and administrative support from Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Newark, said Westervelt, who is also the chief executive officer of that organization.

In his blessing before he and others picked up a shovel and donned a hard hat, Bishop Checchio cited the opening line of Psalm 127: “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who built it.”

“Whenever we look to the interest of our neighbor or the community and serve them, we are God’s own co-workers,” Bishop Checchio continued. “Let us pray for his help, my brothers and sisters, that God will bring this construction project to a successful completion and that his protection will keep those who work on it safe from injury.”

Cardinal Tobin extended “great gratitude to the Diocese of Metuchen and all who made this possible — the civic leaders, the political leaders.”

“And that is for two reasons,” Cardinal Tobin added. “The first is that we who are Catholic Christians are aware Lent starts tomorrow. And Lent is not simply an excuse to diet. It is really a time to sharpen our eyesight, to see what we might be missing and so often in society the missing are senior citizens, those who have no family, those who have limited income. It is not that people are bad to them, they just don’t see them.

“So, with this project, Domus is trying to sharpen the eyesight of our local church and local community. We thank you for that.

“Secondly, I am grateful for our good neighbors in Metuchen that we can work together on the project. Years ago, when I worked in Rome, the head of the Jesuits used to say, ‘A lot of good projects die early or they don’t begin at all because people don’t talk with each other.’

“So, John [Westervelt], thank you for brokering this conversation. Thank you for this wonderful project.”

In his comments, Westervelt said funding for the nearly $11 million project took four years to complete.

“Every good project starts with a strong partnership,” which, he said, included Edison Township; Middlesex County; New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency; New Jersey Department of Community Affairs; Federal Home Loan Bank; TD Bank; Enterprise Housing Credit Investors, LLC; and Community Preservation Corporation.

He also thanked Our Lady of Peace Parish for selling the property.

Father Matthew R. Paratore, pastor, Our Lady of Peace Parish, said it is too early to predict how much spiritual and pastoral care residents of St. Paul will need. However, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion and Father Paratore and Father Robert G. Gorman, parochial vicar, serve the homebound and sick at residences and apartment buildings in Edison, so there will probably be some residents of St. Paul who will want to receive communion and sacraments.

St. Paul the Apostle Senior Residence is being built by Mt. Laurel-based Costanza Construction and will be managed by Bloomfield-based Raymond P. Marzulli Co., Westervelt said.

In addition to the 41 one-bedroom and one two-bedroom units, the residence will contain an activity room, a community room that can be partitioned in half with a kitchen to support the rooms, management offices, a common laundry room with adjacent lounge, a large lobby and maintenance areas, Westervelt said.

The first 42 residents of St. Paul the Apostle Senior Residence, which, Westervelt said, was named for Bishop Emeritus Paul G. Bootkoski, will be chosen by a lottery system. Applicants who are not selected will be placed on a waiting list.

Eleven of the units will be set aside for homeless senior citizens, according to Ronald G. Rios, Middlesex County Freeholder Director, who also participated in the groundbreaking.

Eligibility to live at St. Paul’s is based on income and other factors such as medical bills, so the rent per month might vary for each resident, Westervelt said.

And, because federal funds will be used to build St. Paul, non-residents of New Jersey may apply, Westervelt added. However, based on his experience with other Domus facilities, he expects most of the residents to be from Edison or surrounding towns.

“They want to live where they grew up or have doctors or family,” said Westervelt, who added there is a “much-needed” demand for affordable housing for seniors in New Jersey.

“I could build one of these every day if I had the funding,” he said. “I am looking for a place now for the Diocese of Trenton.”

Anyone interested in applying to live at the St. Paul the Apostle Senior Residence should wait until at least June before calling Dan Ritchey at (973) 743-2300.

[This article, by Chris Donahue, appeared originally in The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Diocese of Metuchen, New Jersey.]

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