Sisters to conduct public hearing on June 6
The Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods will conduct a public forum at 7 p.m., on Monday, June 6, in Providence Hall at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.
The purpose of the forum is to discuss the proposed plans for Owens Hall – located at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.
Currently, the Congregation is considering repurposing the building for alternative uses. At this time, the main proposal is to work with Flaherty & Collins of Indianapolis to develop Owens Hall for use as affordable and market rate housing for seniors 55-older.
The forum will include opportunities for those in attendance to discuss other viable alternatives and to offer input into what services are needed for area seniors if the housing approach is considered the best use of the building. The sisters welcome public opinion.
The main proposal anticipates incorporating optional assisted living services, which will help the seniors age in place, and ideally keep them from having to go into nursing homes. There are financing opportunities to make those optional assisted living services available to fixed income seniors.
The sisters completed a planning process to improve the financial outlook of the Congregation in 2015. The process began in April 2014 after the sisters applied for, and received, funds through the National Religious Retirement Office (NRRO), based in Washington, D.C., to conduct a study of their buildings and land holdings at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.
In July 2014, the Sisters of Providence began working with Hoffman Planning, Design and Construction, a planning firm based in Appleton, Wisconsin. The firm presented a final report to the sisters in February 2015, which included a recommendation of transitioning out of Owens Hall and to repurpose the former Woods Day Care into an administration building.
Further analysis by Hoffman found that the continued care and upkeep of Owens Hall was cost prohibitive. Moving out of the building would create significant cost savings and result in greater utilization of other spaces on campus.
The Hoffman report also called for the creation of a financial model that called for significant reduction in expenses to ensure financial sustainability as well as investigating new revenue streams – such as the possible different uses of land and buildings and continued fund development.
Owens Hall was built in 1959 to be used as a novitiate. It has served more recently as both a residence for sisters and as the primary location for the administration offices of the Congregation.
Currently, the Sisters of Providence have more than 300 sisters, with a median age of 78. While the sisters continue to receive new women religious into their community, they have also witnessed a decrease in annual wage earners, as well as increased costs for the care of elder sisters.
All of these factors have challenged the sisters to look for ways to extend the life of the Congregation’s retirement trust. The financial model suggested through the current planning study has as its goal the extension of the trust to the year 2044 and beyond.
The retirement trust was established in the late 1970s through the sale of a number of high schools which the community owned and operated. It provides an annual benefit to sisters aged 70 and over.
Since 1988, the Congregation has also received funds through the annual collection, sponsored by NRRO, and taken up in parishes nationwide during December each year. The funds received are added to the retirement trust.
Besides the funds from the annual collection, NRRO also provides special assistance, which includes planning grants, like the one the Congregation received to conduct the current study, as well as the implementation grants, and assistance through small subsidies or grants.
The sisters applied for an NRRO implementation grant in 2015 and received it to renovate the former Woods Day Care building for office space.
Written comments on this project will also be welcome by sending them to Owens Hall Project, Sisters of Providence, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana, 47876.