August 29, 1995 – For nearly 100 years, the grounds at St. Mary’s Convent on 35th and Center were graced by Salvatorian Sisters walking its paths while praying their rosary beads after a long day of service. Occasionally their quiet was interrupted by the exuberant voices of candidates, novices or preps playing volleyball or even ice skating in the winter months. In late summer and early fall the smell of ripe apples sweetened the air from the orchard along 36th Street. The grotto standing at the center of the property was a prayerful place to stop for a moment, a reminder of past May crownings or Corpus Christi processions. However, by the early 1990’s these scenes were only echoes of a long distant past. The St. Mary’s structure at the Center Street front of the property was now fully occupied by the nursing home serving frail seniors from the surrounding area, as well as our elderly sisters. The backyard itself stood empty.
In those echoes of the past, a dream was born in the heart of Sister Mary Jo Schmidt, and she shared it with other members of the Board of Directors of St. Mary’s Nursing Home. They were aware that the U.S. Federal Government’s Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) was open to funding and subsidizing safe living spaces for low-income seniors in the area. As early as the 1970s, a board committee was put in place to prepare a proposal for 60 one-bedroom units which was submitted to HUD and approved.
Finally, on August 29, 1995, some 20 years after the dream-seed was planted, we broke ground for a new ministry that would be called Hadley Terrace Senior Apartments. Sister Mary Lee Grady, liaison to the construction committee, ceremoniously broke the new ground along with our lay collaborators. Sister Grace Mary Croft, SDS, then Provincial Leader, summed up the feelings of our sisters, in an interview for Milwaukee’s archdiocesan newspaper The Catholic Herald. “Our sisters, lay staff and collaborators have been and are committed to the elderly. This has been part of our mission since coming to the United States 100 years ago….We are grateful we can respond to the needs of our elderly population in this way.”
So the dream was taking shape. Two years later, on May 9, 1997, Hadley Terrace was dedicated and blessed by Milwaukee’s Auxiliary Bishop Richard Sklba. Along with Sister Mary Jo, Sisters Rita Ruff and Karlyn Cauley moved into the newly blessed building to be a Salvatorian presence among the seniors who made their new home at Hadley Terrace. Sr. Mary Jo’s dream had at last become a reality.