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What’s next for O’Shaughnessy Dining Hall?

Since it was built in 1921, a primary purpose of O’Shaughnessy Dining Hall has been as the dining room for students at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College. The dedication and opening of the new [Sister] Barbara Doherty Dining Center at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College (SMWC) this fall became the catalyst for opportunity. What is the future of the elegant and historic O’Shaughnessy Dining Hall, owned by the Sisters of Providence, at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods?

O’Shaughnessy Dining Hall adorned for a wedding reception in 2018

In July, Sisters of Providence Paula Damiano and Jan Craven, co-directors of Providence Spirituality & Conference Center (PSCC), invited members of the Providence Community and our new catering partner, Bon Appétit, to participate in a think tank for envisioning current and future uses for O’Shaughnessy.


The team came together to seek inventive and exciting ways of expanding O’Shaughnessy’s use and generating a sustaining revenue stream for the Sisters of Providence. Providence Associate and SMWC alumna Sue Weber ’77 facilitated the process with Sister Paula.

The think tank session generated more than 60 ideas for uses of the space, such as partnering with the College for a Twelfth Night or Victorian Christmas experience, progressive dinners down the Avenue, wine/beer tastings with a farm-to-table meal and more. The group created small group teams to flesh out detailed outlines for the top ideas. They were looking for ideas they could implement within the year.

The larger group then ranked possible uses suggested, including events and activities, based on their potential for success. The group established the following criteria for ranking ideas:

  • aligns with the mission of PSCC
  • can be implemented with excellence and creativity
  • has the potential to attract/reach a large number of people/groups
  • fills an important gap in the larger community
  • has potential for weekday/evening use (not just weekends)
  • facilitates a sense of community/ belonging for the named audience
  • has the potential to leverage other programs/services (e.g., White Violet, Linden Leaf Gift Shop, Shrine of Saint Mother Theodore, etc.)
  • can be supported enthusiastically by the larger Providence Community
  • uses existing resources

The process is dynamic and evolving.

What do you think?

So, we invite you to put on your creative thinking cap and help us brainstorm! Do you have suggestions for uses of O’Shaughnessy Dining Hall? Ideas that will help provide income needed to sustain the building and ministries of the Woods?

What novel ideas do you have for using and promoting spacious O’Shaughnessy Dining Hall — a jewel of the campus — now and into the future?

Email ProvCtr@spsmw.org or call 812-535-3131 if you have ideas you would like to share. Let’s put together our collective minds and think well outside the box! After all, isn’t that what Mother Theodore and the founding sisters did?

Originally published in the winter 2022 issue of HOPE magazine.

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Maureen Dickinson

Maureen Dickinson

Maureen Dickinson was the Director of Advancement Services for the Congregation. Prior to coming to the Woods, the Illinois native served as the Executive Director of Quad-Cities Foundation for Black Hawk College in Moline, Illinois.

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