Park Dominicans Announce Sale of Motherhouse Property
PARK, PA ---The Dominican Sisters of Elkins Park, announced recently
that they have signed an agreement for the sale of the Dominican
Retreat House, to Westrum Development Company of Fort Washington,
The sale includes the 42 acres of land and the five historic
buildings of the campus: the main building (Our Lady of Prouille),
St. Dominic Hall, St. Catherine Hall, the Gate Cottage a cluster
of cottages and workshops, and the administrative offices of the
congregation in a building called Fanjeaux.
While the sale is in process retreats and spiritual programs will
continue until June of 2007.
Paraphrasing the book of Ecclesiastes, Sr. Carolyn Krebs, OP,
President of the congregation, said, “There is an appointed
time for everything and a time for every affair under the heavens;
time to be born and a time to die; a time to plant and a time
to uproot the plant. There is a time for gratitude and a time
for sadness. There is a time for handing over and letting go,
a time for laying down one's task and preserving the past. A time
to rest from your labors and a time to take up a new journey.”
There are a total of 75 sisters in the congregation. About 36
sisters live on the campus. St. Catherine Hall -- the retirement
center of the congregation -- is also on the property and will
continue to serve as a residence for retired sisters until mid
2009. Planning is in process to locate new residences for the
sisters on the retreat house staff and the sisters who are retired,
but no details are being announced as yet. The terms of the sale
are not being disclosed.
Some of the reasons for this decision:
Over the last 15 or 20 years, maintenance of the estate has become
increasingly difficult due to rising repair and energy costs,
higher operating expenses and the increased age of the Dominican
Sisters. The cost of maintenance has outpaced the congregation’s
fund raising program and its tradition of keeping retreat programs
as affordable and at the lowest cost possible to retreatants.
Most retreat centers in the US face similar funding and maintenance
decision to work with Westrum Development was precipitated by
the desire of the community find a compatible future use for the
property that would extend the community’s mission in some
way. Since the people who have come to retreats have come to enhance
their spiritual well being, providing a continuing care retirement
facility, which aims to address the holistic well being of the
person, is seen as an appropriate extension of that service.
Sr. Carolyn continued, “ We are excited to be in partnership
with Westrum Development of Fort Washington, PA, an award winning
company in our area ,who has a new vision for this graceful estate
we call Our Lady of Prouille.” The company will begin an
extensive staged renovation of the Main Building, St. Dominic'
Hall and the other buildings on the property. The renovation will
result in a new state of the art continuum of care for senior
residents. In addition, Westrum Development has clearly demonstrated
a desire to preserve and maintain the historical character of
the buildings, and the beauty of the grounds.
The congregation’s leadership is actively working with
the sisters who live and minister on the property to create new
opportunities for ministry and residence. Many sisters have strong
ties in the city of Philadelphia and the General Council is working
with them to identify new possibilities.
While the discernment of future relationships with the Northeast
Six and the disposition of the motherhouse property are intimated
related processes for us, each process has its own challenges
and complexities. The Elkins Park Dominicans bring a strong commitment
to ministry and a keen appreciation for the importance of seeing
God’s hand in the present moment. In the 125 year history
of the congregation, our motherhouse has been relocated several
times: first in Albany, NY, then Media, PA (1960) and in Elkins
Park (1989). This draws us to embrace Dominican itinerancy in
a new, yet familiar way.
The Dominican Sisters, who have conducted retreats and days of
recollection in Elkins Park for nearly 75 years, rightly lay claim
to opening the first retreat house for women in the United States
in 1897 (Albany, NY). The house at Elkins Park was at one time
the largest retreat house for women in the country. Thousands
of women and men have come to Elkins Park seeking a deeper peace
and to experience the movement of God in their lives. They have
been refreshed, renewed and revitalized within these walls and
on these beautiful grounds. The Sisters here have been instruments
of peace and renewal and their mission continues in other places
around the city of Philadelphia and throughout the United States.
The Elkins Park mansion is over 100 years old and is historically
significant to Cheltenham Township and Montgomery County. The
challenge to identify a viable and acceptable future for the property
has been daunting. The local county government has a strong interest
in preserving green space and historic properties and the congregational
leadership has been very aware of the need to find a suitable
new use for the structures that preserves the historic nature
of the buildings. The sale offers positive alternatives for both
the congregation and the township. In the new facilities, most
of the grounds, gardens and green space will remain in tact.
source: Anne Lythgoe, OP Communications Coordinator