Fr. John Bonavitacola, pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish, helped break ground for Villa Fatima in Gilbert March 19. (Joyce Coronel/CATHOLIC SUN)
Fr. John Bonavitacola, pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish, helped break ground for Villa Fatima in Gilbert March 19. (Joyce Coronel/CATHOLIC SUN)

GILBERT — A Tucson man has launched a corporation that will establish a network of skilled nursing facilities to care for Alzheimer’s patients.

Kelly Copeland, a long-time pro-life activist, dubbed the venture Villa Fatima because the messages of Our Lady given at Fatima “hold the key to peace and understanding. Fatima will turn the culture of death to a culture of life,” Copeland said.[quote_box_right]

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The facilities will adhere to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services.

Copeland said the genesis of the project came back in 2008, a point in his life when he seemingly had it all. For decades, he’d experienced financial success building custom, multi-million dollar homes.

That’s when Copeland heard the Gospel call to sell everything he owned and follow Jesus.

Divesting himself of his business, liquidating his assets and even giving up his retirement fund, he freed himself to be able to work for the pro-life cause full time.

The Fatima Women’s Center, a medical clinic that takes care of pregnant women, was born of those efforts in 2009. Copeland’s wife, Barbara, co-founded the clinic and serves as its executive director.

Tragic disease

Around the same time, Copeland’s beloved uncle came down with Alzheimer’s, the devastating disease that slowly robs its victims of memory, cognition and eventually, their personality.

It’s a cruel disease suffered by more than 5 million Americans. According to the Arizona Alzheimer’s Association, 11 percent of seniors in Arizona suffer from the condition and it is the sixth leading cause of death in the state. Copeland saw the similarities between two vulnerable populations: the unborn and the Alzheimer’s patient.

“They are voiceless,” Copeland said. We have to speak for them.” The elderly, he said, are in danger.

“I think we are about to abort the elderly,” Copeland said. “We have three states now with physician assisted suicide.”

Over the next few years, as other states legalize physician assisted suicide — he and other pro-lifers believe it is inevitable — Copeland predicts a Supreme Court decision akin to Roe v. Wade that will undermine the rights of the elderly.

Unable to find a suitable facility for his ailing uncle, Copeland decided he would create one that was fully Catholic and respected the dignity of every life.

Chris Faddis, a local entrepreneur and Catholic lay leader, is partnering with him in the effort. Faddis, whose wife, Angela, died from cancer in 2012, said providing nutritious food that was appealing to patients helps comfort them. In honor of his late wife, he will partner with Villa Fatima in creating the onsite Angela’s Café, an in-house restaurant for individual facilities.

At the March 19 groundbreaking in Gilbert near Banner Gateway Medical Center, Faddis spoke of the call to care for life when others may be tempted to eliminate it.

“In the face of this world which believes compassion is to snuff out a life, Kelly Copeland and the Villa Fatima team, led by God, give us this vision of Villa Fatima where those dying of Alzheimer’s and their families will not find a debate but a home, a place of comfort, consolation and truly dignified care,” Faddis said.

Brad Hahn, a Tempe attorney, is on the ethics advisory board for Villa Fatima. He said he is using his connections in Phoenix to find investors for the project.

The future looks bright: the plan is to begin 10 such facilities this year with several in Arizona. There’s also a plan to build Villa Fatima franchises in other states.