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Welcome to the ‘Evolving Woods’

To paraphrase the lyrics of Bob Dylan, “The Woods, they are a changin’.” And those changes are for the good.

For several years, the Sisters of Providence have been planning related to land, buildings and ministry at the Woods to enable Saint Mary-of-the-Woods to evolve, not only for the Congregation but for you.

This evolution is nothing new. In truth, these Woods have been evolving since 1840, according to the existing and future ministry needs.

In recent years, according to Vicar/General Treasurer Sister Jeanne Hagelskamp, SP, consideration has been given to the land and buildings, and to their use for current and future ministries. Some of the land and buildings were sold to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, to support their growth. The Congregation continues to plan for the future.

“We had to look at what our future needs will be,” Sister Jeanne said. “We know that we are getting smaller and will not need all the space we currently have. We need to look at sustaining current ministries and considering new ministries to which we may be being called. How can we optimize use of this property for the future? We want to be good stewards of the beautiful campus with which we have been entrusted by planning for its future in a systematic and mindful way.”

Representatives for the Sisters of Providence and Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College are working in unison regarding plans for both sides of the campus.

St. Mary’s Senior Living

Sisters Joanne Golding, SP, and Joan Kirkpatrick, SP, enjoying peace and comfort at home with their pets in the new St. Mary’s Senior Living apartments, now open to the public

One example of this plan is the recent repurposing of Owens Hall, now called St. Mary’s Senior Living. The housing community, which opened in late 2021, is run by Flaherty & Collins Properties of Indianapolis. It came into being following the approval of $2 million in tax credits from the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority (IHCDA) in 2018.

The senior living community now includes 33 one-bedroom apartments and 31 two-bedroom apartments for people 55 and older living on restricted income. There are also four market-rate apartments available. Approximately 20 percent of the units in the facility also provide housing opportunities for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities, a need which has been identified for the greater Terre Haute area.

Owens Hall was built in 1959 and was initially used as housing for new members of the Congregation. Years later, it was repurposed as a residence hall for sisters and also included administrative offices.

Housing for retreats and guests

One of the nine bedrooms in Woodhaven at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, now available to be rented out by retreatants and visitors

Another structure on campus, Woodhaven, has also recently gone through some exciting changes. The building sits on the site of the old Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College gymnasium, which was demolished in 2015.

“Woodhaven was built because we had also closed Owens Hall and we didn’t have enough space for sisters,” Sister Paula Damiano, SP, said. “It was built for temporary housing for sisters, but the ultimate goal was that it would be a guest and retreat house.”

Sister Paula said the sisters who lived in Woodhaven were there until February of this year. Since then, the interior of the building has undergone many changes.

Community space in Woodhaven at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, which is now available to be rented out by retreatants and visitors

“We’ve been doing some refurbishing, painting, carpet cleaning and deep cleaning,” Sister Paula said. “We needed to move in some new furnishings.”

The building includes 10 single bedrooms, each with a private bath. One of the rooms will be permanently occupied by Sister Mary Beth Klingel, SP, as she adjusts to her new ministry as hostess of the building.

The common areas include the kitchenette, dining area and gathering space.

Sister Paula said a group of retreatants gathered the end of March and stayed at Woodhaven. She believes the retreat housing space will be fully open and operational by May.

Sister Mary Beth Klingel, the hostess of the new Woodhaven Retreat House, welcomes visitors.

More plans in the works

Sister Jeanne said that some consideration is being given to the building of one or two memory care houses as the Congregation expands its dedication to this ministry. However, significant study is being done regarding the feasibility and viability of those houses.

She described one of the first General Council meetings she attended after being elected in 2016. “We asked ourselves, ‘What is our next ministry? To what might we be being called at this time in our history?’ If we believe that special care for those with cognitive changes is one such ministry, before we move forward, we want to make sure that we have the various resources needed to provide quality care to those who come to us and the capacity to sustain that ministry into the future. No matter what our next call to ministry might be, we pray that, after having done our homework and planning, and if the ministry seems viable, we will have the wisdom and courage to move forward, trusting in that Providence that so far has never failed us.”

Originally published in the summer 2022 issue of HOPE magazine.

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Jason Moon

Jason Moon serves as media relations manager for the Sisters of Providence. Previously, he spent more than 16 years in the newspaper industry.

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