Wellness and Spirituality at Villa St. Joseph


Staff and residents enjoy Wellness at Work challenges

Villa St. Joseph, a skilled-care retirement home founded by the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration (FSPA), has more than one distinct vantage point. First, it overlooks the rolling farmlands surrounding St. Joseph Ridge, Wisconsin. Its philosophical vantage point is equally distinct, integrating FSPA spiritual, ecological and educational traditions into everyday wellness.
The Villa’s history is the history of La Crosse. The land that surrounds it was initially purchased as a farm to grow food for St. Rose Convent and St. Francis Hospital. Now Mayo Clinic Health System-Franciscan Healthcare, the institution still carries the FSPA identity in name and in values.

Kickstarting wellness

The Wellness at Work challenges dovetail nicely with a culture that’s already wellness-oriented. According to Nikki Horihan, human resource manager, a wellness committee of four—including herself, a physical therapist, business manager and massage therapist—leads healthy living efforts for the staff of 130. “We had a wellness committee for five years, but it really took off once we partnered with Health Tradition.”

“Here at the Villa, simple is good. People are busy. That’s why we love Health Tradition challenges… they’re creative, simple and you get everything you need in a neat little kit.”

Horihan makes good use of the reminders and educational materials. Staff has been enthusiastic, especially about challenges that address health concerns other than physical activity. Most feel they get plenty of activity on the job.

Challenge favorites

The Dental Defenders challenge was a staff favorite. Horihan explains. “We supplement the themes. Prizes for this challenge were a nice electric toothbrush, whitening kits and the travel kit from Health Tradition.”

The More Matters nutrition challenge also got a lot of positive feedback. “Staff can eat here. It’s very wonderful food… fresh fruits every day.” Even with the nutrition awareness they already had, people were paying even more attention to how their plates look, counting vegetable servings. “I still do it to this day,” Horihan adds.

Of course, healthy eating is kind of their thing. An organic garden is an important part of life at the Villa, an expression of beauty, stewardship, sharing and, of course, health. The garden also serves as an educational model for the community. Viterbo University students help work the garden through FSPA’s agricultural internship program, contributing to their undergraduate studies in biology and sustainable management. Natural prairie restoration is another ongoing project.

The sisters get involved

Among the challenges’ unexpected benefits was keen interest from the sisters who reside at the Villa. “They saw staff enjoying the challenge, so we invited them to join. The sisters really enjoy reading the resource materials.” The Villa’s kitchen director plans to include the sisters with challenge-related special touches such as infusing water with natural flavors to encourage adequate hydration.
Horihan is looking forward to future challenges. “The more we talk about it and share the excitement, the more participation we get.”
Wellness at Work is provided free to Health Tradition groups.