Chaldean nuns own and operate ‘hidden gem’ in Rancho San Diego retirement facility

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person BJ Coleman
Sister Alexandra, at left, director of the Good Samaritan Retirement Center, in the gardens at the nine-acre facility, with center administrator Susan Sorensen. Sister Alexandra serves among the Chaldean nuns of the order Sisters Daughters of Mary Immaculate Conception, along with three others and one nun residing in retirement at the center. The Chaldean nuns own and operate the nonprofit senior living center in Rancho San Diego. Photo by B.J. Coleman.

Jamacha Road is a fast-moving thoroughfare on the stretch of road winding from El Cajon around into Rancho San Diego. By contrast, the easy-to-miss intersecting Jamacha Way is a different story entirely.

Turn off the main highway, and but a short distance down the seemingly rural street-way is the Good Samaritan Retirement Center, constructed amid nine acres of land bearing fruit and nut trees and a lush landscaped park area. The center is owned and operated by Chaldean nuns from the Iraq-based order Sisters Daughters of Mary Immaculate Conception. Sisters from the order serve in ministries worldwide.

Five nuns are currently at the facility, with one living in retirement there, and four active. They all hail from Iraq, and they range in age from early 30’s through 70’s.

Sister Alexandra is director of the center, which the nuns operate as a nonprofit enterprise, and she agreed to be interviewed along with Susan Sorensen, who serves as the center’s administrator. The two described the history of the facility, services available to retirees, and upcoming plans for a new addition of the Good Samaritan Memory Care Center. Submission of paperwork to the County of San Diego for that next phase of construction will be completed in early March. The following project on Sister Alexandra’s list is for low-income senior housing. “That is if I am still here,” she went on.

Sister Alexandra has been with the center for 18 years. Ground was broken for those existing buildings during 1997-1998.

“It was my dream to help old people since I was young,” Sister Alexandra said. She is of senior age herself now, but according to Sorensen is almost always up and about and active throughout the day’s activities, caring for center residents and the trees and plants in the gardens. She is on site or at the next-door convent 24 hours a day — unless she is driving to shop or pick up other supplies. Sister Alexandra also sews for the center and the center’s priest.

Sorensen added, “It is so quiet back here. I think this is a hidden gem in Rancho San Diego.” She has worked at the center in administration and marketing for three years. Sorensen’s mother lives in the retirement complex.

Forty-eight employees at the center provide services and amenities supporting three levels of care, from independent living, to Level II assisted living including daily hygiene and mobility assistance, and also Level III hospice care for frail and possibly near-death residents who may need help with in-room meals and feeding.

The facility is certified for 70 residents. A total of 62 are living there now, and Sister Alexandra has set aside 10 rooms for low-income seniors. “This is about people, not money,” she continued.

Residence at the center is open to men and women of any religious beliefs. The center is especially friendly for Catholics, though, as Father Dave Leon conducts daily Roman Catholic chapel services, which anyone may attend.

Residents’ room assignments do not change, even if their level-of-care needs change. The only current limitation is that no “wanderers” may live at Good Samaritan.

Sorensen said that she has grown fond of figs from eating fruit harvested from the center’s trees. “We all work together. We stay very tight. And working with the nuns has taught me a lot about myself,” Sorensen related. “This is my favorite order of nuns. They are special.”

Sister Alexandra added, “The credit goes to the employees.”

Sorensen noted that the center’s rooms are available for meetings, and the lower-level park is available to rent for parties and events. Each September, Sister Alexandra stages a gala fundraiser at the park to benefit the center.

More information about Good Samaritan Retirement Center can be found online at or by phone at (619) 590-1515.