Built in 1961, the Immaculate Heart of Mary Novitiate in Tewksbury, Massachusetts was initially focused on the training of Novices and consisted of a large chapel, convent, residence rooms, kitchen, dining rooms, break room, breakfast area, common area, offices, and laundry rooms. In the 90s, a large dining room, kitchen, and multipurpose room were added. The facility was converted from a novitiate to assisted living for 17 Oblates ranging in age from their 70s to their 90s and from countries across North and South America
The facility sits on 21 acres, and as it aged, the facility’s urgent needs became new heating and cooling systems and the roof which had multiple leaks. The facility had only very ineffective patchwork maintenance for at least 60 years. The priests were not getting the heat their aged bodies needed in the winter and were not able to get relief from the heat in the summer.
In 2022, Fr. Louis Studer, O.M.I. Provincial of the U.S. Province, and Fr. Jim Chambers, O.M.I. Treasurer, spearheaded the renovation of the entire facility, including the residences, large chapel, kitchen, dining, residences, and breakfast area, and through the leadership of Fr. John Hanley, O.M.I. The Director of the IHM Community, the project was able to move forward. The services of the Construction Management and Commissioning Firm, Jasmine Engineering, Inc., were engaged to evaluate the heating and cooling system and roof as well as other areas of concern in the facility. The project’s main objective was to bring relief to the beloved resident priests.
The biggest challenge the project faced was that the residents needed to stay in residence during the construction. Fr. John Hanley, O.M.I The Director of the IHM Community, worked with Jasmine Engineering in showing the utmost care and respect for the safety, comfort, and routines of the residents and staff. Construction focused on ensuring that there was no interaction between the residents and the various elements of construction.
The entire roof needed to be replaced due to numerous areas that were allowing rain and melting snow to leak down into the facility. These unsealed areas were not only allowing moisture in, they were also allowing out cool air in the hot months and warm air in the cold months. This leakage issue caused unnecessarily high utility bills and maintenance costs.
Through the course of construction, the entire ineffective, old roofing material over the facility was completely removed and replaced. Part of the process included sealing all areas around any roof-mounted equipment to prevent leaks at those seams. The final roofing element was the metal edging that now runs along all of the roof edges.
This new, state-of-the-art roof system has an extensive labor warranty. Unlike the typical one-year, this labor warranty is for ten years, and the manufacturer’s warranty is for thirty years.
As for the heating and cooling systems, there was a great deal of rust, leaks, and not functioning/working energy management control system. The systems received new pipes, software, fixtures, and a control system that maintains the appropriate temperature and humidity levels in the various areas of the facility. The Energy Management Control system also has sensors to detect the number of people in individual areas and adjust the amount of conditioned air for optimum comfort. Both the heating and cooling systems and the roof were permitted by the City and passed the city’s inspections.
An additional issue that the construction resolved was the fact that the facility was prone to flooding. Jasmine Engineering implemented the design of sump pumps to evacuate accumulated water when flooded.
The rejuvenation of the heating and cooling system and the roof replacement were slated to be completed on November 23, 2023; however, the project ended significantly ahead of schedule and completed on September 22, 2023. In addition to staying within budget, the big monetary payoff for the facility will come in the form of a great deal of savings in utility costs. The sealed roof and new heating and cooling system, along with the heating and cooling controls, give the residents a more energy-efficient facility. The energy efficiency of the facility will be continually monitored by Jasmine Engineering remotely from its offices. The ongoing partnership with Jasmine Engineering continues with managing projects of the Novitiate and the Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows in Illinois.
After meeting the challenge of renovating the facility without interrupting the safety, health, or routines of the resident priests, the most important result by far of the renovation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Residence is being able to give the much loved and respected Oblates, who have given us a lifetime of service, a more comfortable home.