On her 75th birthday, Sandra Orr celebrated in style — by getting a COVID vaccination at an archdiocesan clinic for seniors.

“This is my present to myself,” said Orr as she arrived at St. Katherine of Siena Parish in Philadelphia, which teamed up with Catholic Housing and Community Services (CHCS) to deliver 100 first doses of the Moderna vaccine to older adults.

The March 30 appointment-only session was the fourth organized by CHCS in recent weeks, and the first for which the agency partnered with Giant Pharmacy, whose medical professionals administered the shots, said CHCS director Heather Huot.


“It’s really important to have options like this for people who don’t want to go to mass vaccination sites, or those who are hesitant about getting the vaccine” in the first place, she said.

After receiving their shots, seniors were treated to handmade cards and gift baskets prepared by The Giving Tree, a Montgomery County-based nonprofit through which children perform acts of kindness and service.

The relaxed, welcoming atmosphere of the clinic was intentional, Huot said – a way of ensuring seniors understood their paperwork, while accommodating mobility issues.

With many clients relying on walkers and wheelchairs, “you really need to have a place they can get to easily, without it being too much of a hassle,” she said.

The parish setting is ideal, said Huot, who described St. Katherine pastor (and CHCS board president) Msgr. Paul Kennedy as “a big supporter” of such outreaches.

“He really recognizes the needs of his senior parishioners,” she said. “When I approached him about doing this, there was no hesitation – ‘we have the space; let’s do this’ – and here we are.”

CHCS, which offers a continuum of care to seniors throughout the five-county area, counts St. Katherine’s as part of the agency’s network of parish eldercare management programs. Services include in-home assessments, assistance with navigating health care and benefits systems, and individual care plans.

Working with parishes, and through its own senior residences and centers, CHCS has been able to connect vaccine providers with clients more effectively, Huot said.

“A lot of the pharmacies don’t know how to get to the community, or they don’t want to handle the registration portion of the process,” she said. “We’re already in the communities, and we can very easily get people here.”

The experience was life-changing for St. Katherine parishioner Joe Bailer.

“I have felt like a prisoner,” said Bailer. “I haven’t been out anywhere.”

Since the pandemic unfolded last March, Bailer has not seen family members in person or attended Mass, a first “in years and years.”

“I’ve been watching it on television,” he said. “I miss Communion.”

After he receives his second dose, he plans to return to the pew – and to another favorite destination.

“I love the racetrack,” he admitted. “I don’t bet much, but I enjoy it. I’ll be back as soon as I can.”