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Emily Walla, a production assistant at Anew Nature, made gift crosses Aug. 4 at the shop. The organization was making fixtures and furniture for the the new chapel in the cancer center at Mercy South.
Emily Walla, a production assistant at Anew Nature, made gift crosses Aug. 4 at the shop. The organization was making fixtures and furniture for the the new chapel in the cancer center at Mercy South.
Photo Credit: Jerry Naunheim Jr.

Mercy Hospital South chapel furnishings home-grown

Wood came from the trees removed from the site of the center

Sparks burst from the metal that Emily Walla of Anew Nature used to create a template for producing wooden crosses. The template is for gift crosses for Mercy Hospital South’s new cancer center in the Mehlville area of south St. Louis County.

Walla and Robert Karleskint worked on a few remaining pieces for the chapel of the new David M. Sindelar Cancer Center at Mercy Hospital South last month in a basement workshop of a warehouse in St. Louis.

The wood to build the crosses, crucifixes and the new cancer center’s chapel furniture, including the altar, podium and lectern, came from the trees that were removed from the site of the center. Mercy was attracted to Anew’s furniture restoration efforts to reuse the wood from the property and mission to teach job skills to felons through furniture making.

Robert Karleskint, owner of Anew Nature, built a prayer box Aug. 4 at the shop. Karleskint founded Anew Nature designs and builds furniture while equipping jobless men, including those with felony convictions, with marketable job skills.
Photo Credits: Jerry Naunheim Jr.
Mary Beth Bulte, vice president of mission for Mercy South, said the intention was to honor the heritage of the trees that had been in the space. “The decision was made with the knowledge of many trees coming down and a desire to be good stewards of the resources,” she said. “It took what could have been thrown away and instead uses those trees for beautiful items. To see the beauty in the work has been rewarding for all of us.”

Anew Nature also serves as a vocational training site for jobless men, many of whom have felony convictions. “It met our values, care for others also, in choosing a company who works with those who had been incarcerated,” Bulte said. “It touched a spot for all of us.”

Chuck Rosso of Mercy South’s pastoral care department said it’s in the Mercy tradition of reaching out to people who are marginalized. Sister Catherine Macauley, the founder of the Sisters of Mercy, took in women who were at-risk and from poor neighborhoods.

Including a chapel in the new cancer center relates to a holistic approach, with spirituality an important part of everyone, especially those undergoing treatment for cancer. “We are blessed to be able to have that chapel right in the midst of where services are provided and also to have chaplaincy services right there,” Bulte said.

It provides space where people can go for quiet, an opportunity for respite and renewal, she said, and a place where chaplains can provide services. Mercy South also has a chapel in the hospital.

Research shows the connection between spirituality and cancer recovery, Rosso said. “It’s been shown that people who use positive spirituality have better outcomes as they cope with a cancer diagnosis. Having a chapel there and a chaplain’s support and presence at the center makes total sense, fits in the the Mercy tradition and also fits in with what research shows helps people get well.”

Rosso is struck by the solid construction of the furniture and its simple design. “It was so neat to me to see these pieces that were so carefully and skillfully put together,” he said. The altar “is a gorgeous piece of craftsmanship.”

Bulte also is struck by the simplicity of the chapel, which “makes it easy to be drawn back to God.”

Rosso enjoys the chaplaincy work, citing “amazing experiences” with people drawn up by God. “It’s humbling,” he said.

Bulte works mostly with staff, helping them “to recognize the sacred moments in our days,” she said. “It’s a way to help people open their eyes to see they are doing God’s work every single day.”

Karleskint, owner-operator of Anew Nature furniture restoration and fixture creation company, uses the work as a conduit to teach vocational training classes. “Our goal is to get them equipped with the necessary skills to gain and retain employment,” he said. “We are a God-centered, faith-based company.”

Karleskint, who uses wood that otherwise would be wasted, said that “I like that Mercy cares enough to preserve the trees.”

The training program is on hold temporarily because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Through Mission: St. Louis’ Job and Leadership Program, Anew trains about 30 men a year in 10-week sessions four times a year. It equips them with workplace culture skills, tool literacy, professional communications, worksite safety, and most of all confidence. Since he began working on the Mercy project more than a year ago, several men were trained through that work. Anew also has done work for St. Mary Magdalen Parish in Brentwood.

Karleskint, interviewed while working on a prayer box for the chapel, said it’s important to help men who’ve had felony convictions because of the stigma associated with it and the need to stop punishing them after they’ve served their sentences. “They need a chance,” he said.

>> Cancer center

Mercy’s new David M. Sindelar Cancer Center at Mercy Hospital South was designed to meet cancer patients’ and their families’ physical, emotional and spiritual needs.

The name of the cancer center honors the late David M. Sindelar and the leadership he provided St. Anthony’s Medical Center for many years up through its decision to join Mercy. That agreement was reached shortly before Sindelar lost his own battle with cancer in March 2017. Groundbreaking for the new cancer center took place in September 2018.

The center is a stand-alone, two-story, 78,000-square-foot facility located on the Mercy South campus across the main drive from the emergency department. The Rooney Breast Center has its own dedicated entrance on the opposite end of the facility, providing patients with direct access to mammography and other breast health services.

Patients have access to the infusion center, radiation oncology services, imaging, laboratory, integrative medicine, chapel, specialty boutique, café, conference center and more.

Chaplains assist patients, their family and friends with their spiritual needs, and a chapel provides a prayer space. 

The name of the Rooney Breast Center honors Sara Sindelar, whose maiden name is Rooney, along with the rest of the Sindelar and Rooney families.

>> Anew Nature

Anew Nature was founded by Robert Karleskint in 2013. When he volunteered with Mission: St. Louis, a St. Louis based nonprofit, he taught job skills to inner city, marginalized men for only 10 hours a week, outside of his design build construction job.

As he grew to know the men going through Mission: St. Louis’ Job and Leadership Program, he saw a need to equip them with marketable skills that would translate into jobs that could be retained over time.

In order to fund the startup of Anew Nature, Karleskint refinished and painted furniture to sell, which allowed him to teach job skill classes full time. His goal was to offer employment to men with past felony convictions who completed the internship program.

Anew Nature hired six men who graduated from the internship program. They were employed with Anew Nature for 4-23 months until moving on to another job.

For more information, visit www.anewnature.com.

>> Another new chapel

The first official Mass in and blessing of the recently completed chapel in the new SSM Health Saint Louis University Hospital took place Aug. 23. Auxiliary Bishop Mark S. Rivituso celebrated the Mass and blessed the chapel. Jesuit Father David Suwalsky, Saint Louis University’s vice president for mission and identity, was co-celebrant and homilist of the livestreamed Mass.

Money that would have been spent on brunch afterward was donated to St. Patrick’s Center to support the center’s meal service to the homeless.

The Orthwein Chapel, built through a donation by David Thornley Orthwein, is on the ground level of the hospital complex. It is an open, multi-story sanctuary featuring the colorful sunlight of a stained-glass window with images depicting the hospital’s mission.

The new SSM Health Saint Louis University Hospital opened Sept. 1. The $550 million SSM Health Saint Louis University Hospital and ambulatory care center features more than 800,000 square feet of space, 316 private patient rooms, an expanded Level I trauma center and emergency department, larger intensive care units, expanded patient parking, green space and areas for future campus expansion.

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