The Benedictine Sisters at the Monastery of St. Gertrude invite the public to join them a groundbreaking ceremony on Sunday, June 12, 2:00 p.m. The ceremony marks the start of construction on a new 21,800 square foot multi-purpose Conference and Spirituality Center to be located in the field behind the museum. The groundbreaking ceremony will be held at the site of the new center.
Construction of the new Center is the first step in a three-part project which includes long-overdue renovations to the historic monastery structure and establishing endowments to sustain and grow the sisters' Spirituality Ministry and The Historical Museum at St. Gertrude.
"Over the years our prayer has impelled us, in faith and hope, to meet the needs of the times," said Sr. Jean Lalande, Prioress. "Our founding sisters responded to the need for education and health care to the German Catholic communities during our first eight or nine decades in America.
"Today we respond to the spiritual education and health of our society through our Spirituality and Retreat ministry. The new center will play a major role in our work here on the Camas Prairie for the next century."
Through the corporate activities of the sisters, 10,000 people have direct contact with the monastery each year. The Spirituality and Retreat Ministry annually hosts 2,500 people at the monastery and through outreach retreats, parish education, and spiritual direction; the Historical Museum at St. Gertrude accounts for over 7,500 annual visitors to the monastery through its admissions, lecture series, workshops, educational outreach, and fundraising events.
The multi-purpose center is designed to provide space for conferences and large group meetings, accommodations for guests and retreatants, offices, the monastery archives and environmentally controlled space for museum and monastery archives storage.
In 1972, the sisters gave up valuable living and meeting space on the top floor of the monastery and in the residential annex for their retreat work. Today, the community needs the space for new members, sisters returning home at retirement, and live-in volunteers.
"We are fortunate to have six women in formation," said Lalande. "That's 10% of our population, a very good sign for this monastic community."
The flourishing Spirituality Ministry will be relocated into the new Center, freeing up bedrooms, offices, and meeting space in the monastery adequate to meet the sisters' anticipated space needs for the foreseeable future.
The new center features a three-story residential wing with the capacity to house up to 44 people, including men and couples. The residential and conference wings of the building are bridged by a two-story glass walled atrium housing the reception area and staff offices. The conference wing is two-stories with four meeting rooms, the largest of which will hold 140 participants. Each room will contain state-of-the-art sound and projection systems. Additionally, 1,500 square feet of environmentally controlled space for museum storage and the monastery's archives is included in the structure.
"We anticipate the conference rooms being used by not just the sisters, but diocesan, civic, professional and other groups," said Lalande. "It is difficult to hold large meetings on the Prairie. We believe the center will be an asset to this region, and the mayors of Cottonwood and Grangeville have expressed their enthusiasm and support for our project and its potential for economic growth and sustainability in the area."
The cost of the new construction, renovations and endowments is expected to be $6.9 million. Construction begins this summer and should take about 10 months. Renovations will begin in 2006. General contractors are Bouten Construction Company of Spokane, WA, for new construction and Arnzen Building Construction in Cottonwood, for the monastery renovations.
The monastery has engaged a consultant to help them raise the funds through a capital campaign entitled "Growing a Future Rooted in Hope."
"Until we raise 70% of the funds we will be in what is known as the 'quiet phase' of the campaign," said Sr. Mary Kay Henry, Director of Development. "During this time we will raise funds through direct solicitations of our major donors and foundations. Once we have secured substantial funding we will 'go public' with fundraising events and widespread publicity."
Bishop Michael Driscoll and Alphonse Uhlenkott have agreed to serve as honorary co-chairs on the campaign steering committee.
"I am profoundly grateful to the Benedictine Sisters for their immeasurable impact in our diocese through their presence and ministries for over 108 years." said Bishop Driscoll in a statement of support. "I rejoice that they have six women in formation. Their way of life itself, their daily prayer for the diocese, and their current ministries are vital to the church and larger society in Idaho. I am proud to be an honorary co-chair for their campaign."
Al Uhlenkott is the eldest living member of the family who influenced the sisters to move to Cottonwood in 1905. He and his family have supported their endeavors for one hundred years. "I really believe in this project and support it most willingly. I hope a lot of people will see that having the monastery, the conference and retreat center and the museum in our area is good for our spiritual life and our economy."
"As soon as we begin construction, however, we know that our friends and neighbors on the prairie will want to know what's happening," continued Henry with a smile. "We invite everyone to the groundbreaking ceremony to see the plans, look at the model and hear about the project first-hand."