Dominion House Is Home to Retired Missionhurst Priests

ARLINGTON — Sunlight streams down through a long skylight onto African masks and a painting of a Haitian seaport town that decorate the atrium walls of Dominion House in Arlington. Dominion House is a brick, two-story retirement home for Missionhurst priests, which opened near the Missionhurst Retreat Center in November 2000. Missionhurst priests have served the Church’s foreign missions since 1862. For many years, members were Belgian or Dutch. Today, Missionhurst priests form an international community serving in Africa, Asia and throughout the Americas. Bernadette Michael, director of Dominion House since last July, gave a tour of the home located on North 25th Street. Artifacts brought from China, Africa and Haiti by Missionhurst missionaries are found throughout the house. Some items were salvaged from a dusty attic of the Missionhurst Retreat Center house where priests formerly lived. A sense of the order’s history pervades the bright, clean rooms of Dominion House. In first-floor library shelves, books about foreign lands and theology are interspersed by wooden figurines from around the world. Plants fill the center of the first-floor atrium. Artwork by the late Belgian Missionhurst Father Arthur Van DenBossche, who served in China and Haiti, is displayed on two walls. Missionhurst takes very good care of its retired priests. "They’ve worked hard all their lives, so they deserve it," Michael said. Four priests currently reside at Dominion House, Missionhurst Fathers Charles Denys, Paul De Wolf, Howard Picard and Jerry Meersman. There is room in the house for six priests. Housekeeper Josephine Marshall arrives early in the morning and prepares breakfast. The delicious aroma of minestrone soup through the house announces that Paulette Moten, the cook, is busy preparing lunch in the spacious kitchen. A long Scandinavian-style dining table is set for lunch. Two large Chinese landscapes hang on one wall. At the far end of the room, sun pours through double doors leading to a deck. Moten also cooks dinner, which is served at 6 p.m. Residents record on a board in the kitchen if they will be away, so Moten knows how many meals to prepare. The priests are on their own on weekends, and they help each other with getting to a doctor’s visit or cooking meals. From the atrium, a door opens into a simple chapel where residents take turns celebrating 9 a.m. Mass. Another of Father Van DenBossche’s paintings — Jesus and the 12 apostles — hangs behind the simple altar. Father Denys, a native of Belgium, has lived in Dominion House since December 2000. He served in China from 1947 until the Communist Revolution forced him to leave in 1948. He keeps pictures and mementos of China in his room. It was Father Denys who was able to identify Father Van DenBossche’s work. A spare room, which can be used for a live-in nurse, is located next to Michael’s office. "Although our residents are pretty independent and mobile, Dominion House was designed with the future in mind, just in case any of the residents become incapacitated," Michael said. A room that has not yet been used features a special bath providing easy access for the disabled. Pull-cords in residents’ rooms are connected to her office to alert her to emergencies. Grab bars are found in bathrooms and handrails line both sides of stairways. An elevator provides access to all floors of the house. Upstairs, on a sunny landing, near an array of plants tended by Father Paul, stands a conversation piece — a man-sized costume display topped by a black helmet on which sits a stuffed beaver-like creature, which came all the way from Mongolia. Individual bedrooms are located on the second floor. Simple, wooden dressers, beds and bookshelves fill well-lit rooms. Bathrooms have easily accessible showers. A small microwave, refrigerator, telephone and computer lines equip each room. Michael previously worked for a non-profit organization serving seniors in Arlington, as well as for Catholic Charities, so she feels very comfortable as director of Dominion House. "It’s a lovely place to work, and the Missionhurst priests and staff are very kind," Michael said. Dominion House was designed by architects O’Brien and Keane and built by longtime local builders Gruver & Cooley.

Copyright ?2002 Arlington Catholic Herald.  All rights reserved.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2002