LIttle Sisters of the Poor

The Order of Malta, delivered gratitude packages to Little Sisters of the Poor in San Pedro on Tuesday, June 23, 2020. The packages which included a special note of thanks from donors, will be quarantined for 3 days then handed out to the caregivers. (Photo by Brittany Murray, Press-Telegram/SCNG)

Negotiations with four prospective owner-operators for the Little Sisters of the Poor facility in San Pedro could yield an agreement as early as March, according to the priest and attorney representing the Catholic organization.

The ongoing, private talks follow the Little Sisters’ decision in December to decline an earlier offer by Los Angeles County to acquire the property and find a new operator.

All four prospective buyers in the current negotiations, which have not been disclosed because the talks are confidential, are already licensed and involved in running skilled nursing homes and similar operations, said Rev. Mark Cregan. Some also have religious ties, he said, with missions similar to that run by the Little Sisters, making them qualified to pick up the operation and continue the work.

“I have a feeling one of these,” Cregan said in a telephone interview on Wednesday, Feb. 10, “will be approved to purchase it.”

It was just about a year ago — on Feb. 18, 2020 — when the surprise announcement came that the Jeanne Jugan Residence in San Pedro would seek a new owner-operator.

The facility has a long history and widespread respect in the port town that has long had a strong Catholic community. Many have put their names on the home’s waiting list to someday stay there.

When the coronavirus pandemic struck shortly after the announcement last year, collections of supplies were taken up by San Pedro residents and businesses to be delivered to the home’s doorstep.

Looking to pare down some of the Little Sisters’ 167 homes around the world, the Roman Catholic religious order of nuns announced it’d be withdrawing from San Pedro once a buyer was found. The one stipulation was that it continue to be a facility that would serve the elderly poor.

Because the San Pedro home, 2100 S. Western Ave., includes some ocean views, many were worried it would be sold to a developer.


The Los Angeles home, which goes back 116 years and originally was in Boyle Heights, moved to San Pedro in 1979, taking over the old home of Fermin Lasuen, a Catholic high school for boys that closed in 1971. The facility, on 5.22 acres, is home to about 100 residents. Seven sisters remain on staff and will be reassigned to other facilities once a new owner is selected.

The facility includes a 150,000 square-foot main building and a smaller retreat house, with a garden area among the property’s outdoor features.

The sisters once had more than 50 homes in the United States. Once the organization sells the San Pedro facility and one other on the East Coast, the number of Little Sisters homes will be down to 21.

The decision to sell off some properties is part of an overall move to dedicate more resources to selected homes that are being kept under the Little Sisters’ ownership, Cregan said.

The consolidation move, in large part, was prompted by the goal to keep a minimum of 10 sisters in each home, Cregan said.

With fewer young women entering the religious orders, he said, that has become a challenge.

“It’s a wonderful mission,” the priest added, “and they’re feeling bad they can’t get more young women interested in becoming sisters.”

Cregan’s first contact with the order and its homes was as a 14-year-old dishwasher in one of the facilities on the East Coast. Now, at 63 years old, the priest serves as the order’s attorney handling the downsizing and consolidation efforts.

He is currently overseeing both the San Pedro sale and the turnover of another Little Sisters’ home in Richmond, Virginia.

While a verbal agreement could be reached as early as the beginning of March, Cregan said a formal announcement, following the needed paperwork, would come not for another several weeks, perhaps in April.

Should the current negotiations not yield a buyer, a spokeswoman for Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn said, the county would be willing to keep its offer on the table. In that scenario, the home likely would be leased out by the county for continued operation.

For Cregan, who after his dishwashing job went on to do other paid chores for the Little Sisters of the Poor, the closures have been “tough and sad.” But he stressed, too, that the overall transition will help bolster the worldwide mission and support its remaining facilities well into the future.

The Little Sisters of the Poor were founded by Jeanne Jugan in France in 1839 when she opened up her home to an elderly, blind and paralyzed woman. The order is now part of an international congregation of Roman Catholic women who serve the poor elders in 30 countries, operating on donations. The order’s numbers are thought to have peaked during World War II, when 300 homes operated worldwide.

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