Sister Elisabeth Manhertz
Sister Elisabeth Manhertz was born in Pilisvörösvár, Hungary in the fall of 1918. She joined the Society of the Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (‘A Népleányok’) in Hungary when she was 17. She thrived there. During the war years with its attrition and senseless death, Sister Elisabeth was responsible for finding food for the convent and her sister nuns. With her strong drive and quick wits, she made sure that everyone ate. The end of the war brought a communist reign of terror with strikes aimed directly at the Roman Catholic Church and its religious Orders. In this environment, Sister Elisabeth rebuilt the convent that bombing had destroyed, by relying again on the special gifts that God had given her. In 1949, Sister Elisabeth defied torture and death by crossing minefields and a barbed wire fence on the western border of Hungary to ultimate freedom in Austria. From there she came to Canada to fulfill her Superior General’s instructions to go west to maintain the Order away from the harsh Soviet regime. Throughout these trials, Sister maintained her good sense of humour, her kindness and her strength in faith.
In Canada, Sister Elisabeth took on her mission to follow her patron saint and namesake, St. Elizabeth of Hungary, by giving charity to the sick, elderly and infirm. In 1951, she arrived in Hamilton, a resolute nun determined to bring kindness to this tough steel town. With the aid of God and kindly benefactors, Sister Elisabeth began her building campaign that started with a nursing home in downtown Hamilton, one retirement home in Hungary, the second rebuilding of the convent in Budapest and then she crowned them all with a pioneering lifelease development on Hamilton Mountain, called St. Elizabeth Village. Through it all, she never wavered from her self-sacrificing mission.
St. Elizabeth Village
With news of Sister Elisabeth and her mission to help the poor, the old and the infirm, many supporters urged her to establish a living facility for older adults who were still healthy and not yet ready for a nursing home. She studied many forms of housing for people who couldn’t afford substantial mortgages and found that offering houses on lifeleases with refundable terms would be the best option.
In the 1970’s, Sister Elisabeth purchased farmland with funds given to her by those supporters and in 1978, with an outline for development of this retirement community, she set out to get approval from Regional and Municipal politicians to begin building such a project. In total, it took two years of Sister Elisabeth lobbying for her vision and convincing others to believe in her dream before she was given full approval to begin building.
In 1981, St. Elizabeth Village, a lifeleasing community located on the Hamilton West mountain was established and was one of Canada’s first retirement communities. The first phase of building created 16 houses and they were leased as they were built. The money earned from leasing those units was put towards building phase two, and so on. In total, there were 11 phases of building with the last phase completed in 2006. Currently, there are nearly 600 houses and over 800 residents. During the phases, a retirement residence called St. Elizabeth Villa, with a beautiful church attached, was built to ensure a continuum of care for the residents when needed.
With the building of the Village and the vision of having active adults maintaining their health and independence for as long as possible, amenities were created in support of this. The Edelweiss and Trillium were two clubhouses built, one with a pool and meeting hall for resident activities and the other with a woodworking shop a large hall for social functions. The Village Centre building was built and is currently equipped with two doctors’ offices, physiotherapy clinic, bank and pharmacy.
An emphasis on maintaining the natural landscape of the Village has always been the goal. It is an idyllic setting of 200 acres of landscaped gardens with 16 beautiful ponds and home to wildlife such as geese and swans.
It has been over 30 years since St. Elizabeth Village was originally constructed and it has evolved into a vibrant community designed to enhance the care-free lifestyle of its residents.
St. Elizabeth Home Society
St. Elizabeth Home Society was founded in 1956 by Sister Elisabeth in Hamilton, Ontario. The mission of the Society is to establish and manage residences designed for retired adults while delivering services and providing information and support necessary to enhance quality of life.
In 1967, St. Elizabeth Home Society became a not-for-profit registered Canadian charity. It is through the Society, that St. Elizabeth Village and St. Elizabeth Villa were established.