No changes in properties’ use for immediate future
By Tara Sharpe
Many of the Sisters of St. Ann have travelled a familiar path home over the years, returning from post-secondary study at the University of Victoria to the Sisters’ properties on the corner of Arbutus Road and Queenswood Drive. Now the university community can look forward to literally following in their footsteps in the future.
On March 1, UVic and the Sisters announced the signing of an agreement that will see UVic purchase the properties from the Sisters. The agreement is in keeping with the shared history of the Sisters of St. Ann and UVic, and their shared commitment to education and health promotion. And it helps open the opportunity in the long term to expand the university’s academic mission to a location within walking distance of the UVic campus.
In the immediate future there will be no changes in the use of the property.
“This agreement promises distinct benefits to our campus community,” says UVic Vice-President Finance and Operations Gayle Gorrill. “These scenic wooded properties, so close to the UVic campus, will allow us to plan the use of space over the long term in support of our academic mission, and the agreement also serves as a clear reflection of the deep connection between our institution and the Sisters of St. Ann.”
The Sisters of St. Ann, a religious order, opened their first school in 1858 and were among the first educators in Victoria. They are responsible for founding most of BC’s first hospitals and schools, and many of the Sisters of St. Ann are alumnæ of Victoria College and UVic; one member was part of the first faculty of UVic’s School of Nursing.
In June 2008, the ongoing strength of the relationship between the Sisters and UVic was underscored by the Sisters’ generous endowment of $300,000 to the university to support UVic nursing and rural education students. The gift celebrated the 150th anniversary of the Sisters’ arrival in the capital city and their missionary work in BC.
The Sisters originally purchased the land as a residence for the Sisters studying at UVic. The six-hectare wooded location now houses St. Ann’s Residence, a care facility for the Sisters of St. Ann, and Queenswood retreat centre, which initially was used as a residence for the Sisters. And now provides individual and group retreats with a unique program focus on the spiritual, emotional and physical renewal of those who care for others in education, health care and social services. The Sisters residing in St. Ann’s Residence will have the option of continuing to live there until January 2013, and the Sisters of St. Ann have been actively planning the transition.
“The Sisters of St. Ann have been playing an active role in the lives of British Columbians for over 150 years,” says Sisters of St. Ann Province Leader Sister Marie Zarowny. “It is heartening to know that our legacy of compassion and education can live on in a variety of ways as part of the university.”
In 2004, the Sisters established the Queenswood Society for Spiritual Growth to assume the management of Queenswood retreat centre and transform it into a financially self-sustaining legacy of the Sisters of St. Ann. It is anticipated there will be no significant change in the use of the properties in the immediate future, and the centre plans to continue delivering community programming according to an existing agreement with the Sisters of St. Ann that ends Dec. 31, 2010. The future of Queenswood retreat centre has been an important part of the discussions between the Sisters and UVic since the beginning, and UVic and Queenswood are currently exploring potential arrangements for a longer-term presence for the retreat centre on the property.
In the long term, the property would be used for purposes consistent with the teaching, research and community engagement aspects of the university’s mission. Kristi Simpson, UVic’s assistant vice-president of financial planning and operations, will be developing recommendations for the use of the property for the long term. UVic is committed to sitting down with the neighbourhood before proposing any significant changes to the use of the properties in the future.
The agreement between UVic and the Sisters provides for transfer of property ownership to UVic in June 2010, based on final approvals by the UVic Board of Governors and the Congregational Leadership of the Sisters of St. Ann.