April 23, 1999 Volume 6, Number 15

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COVER STORY

Ursuline Sisters offer to donate Centre to the University

Until last fall, the Ursuline Sisters of Bruno (about 90 kms east of Saskatoon, near Humboldt) were attempting to sell their multi-functional Centre, which was developed from an original Convent (1919) and Academy (1922), for $1.5 million.

But when no takers materialized, the Sisters - who closed the Academy in 1982 because of insufficient replenishment of sister personnel - decided to offer the entire facility to the University of Saskatchewan "in the hope that their original mission of positively influencing the lives of youth will continue."

In recent years, the Centre has been used for meetings, retreats, and conferences. Its annual taxes and utilities total about $37,000.

The space-strapped University is interested in this "solid, well-maintained, 60,000 square foot facility," to use Vice-president Tony Whitworth's words, but also aware of the drawback of travel time (about an hour) from Saskatoon.

Nevertheless, in an April 5 memorandum to the President's Advisory Council, Whitworth solicits input on potential uses for the facility - which he describes as consisting of "meeting rooms, full-sized gymnasium, office space, library, chapel, science/computer lab, woodworking area, greenhouse, kitchen and dining area for up to 200, single-room accommodation for 36 and dormitory accommodation for 52 people, as well as laundry facilities" - by April 16, 1999.

The 65-acre site also boasts gardens, treed areas, walking paths, a marsh, and organic agricultural land.

Judy Yungwirth, director of corporate administration, says the Sisters' proposal "is a generous offer of a good piece of property. The question is: can we use it effectively, being 50 miles away?"

She says there have been "pockets of interest" in the Centre's potential, "but no one to date who feels that they can take on the whole project for 365 days a year."

On the other hand, she adds, educational and social services arms of the provincial government have also expressed interest in the facility.

Currently, about 23 sisters are living in the Centre, which supports about 15 part-time service jobs - food preparation, laundry, maintenance.

The Ursuline Centre traces its history to the German Catholic settlement that Reverend Bruno Doerfler established in St. Peter's Colony (which included the town of Bruno), after emigrating to Canada in 1902 with 17 German American families. When the German government took over convents to set up military headquarters during WWI, many sisters moved to Canada. Doerfler persuaded a number of them to move to the St. Peter's Colony.

They constructed the Ursuline Convent in 1919 and opened the St. Ursula Academy in 1922. The Academy became known for the excellence of its academic and cultural education and its classrooms were consistently full, with many students coming from out of the province.


The Ursuline Centre (formerly Ursuline Academy) with gymnasium to the right and the Sisters' residence (with chapel, dining areas, and library) to the left. Pockets of interest in the offer, but certain drawbacks, too.




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