Sunday, June 04, 2000

Retired sisters will get modern new home

By Walt Schaefer
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        READING In what is normally one of the most serene places in this city, construction workers will begin a project this week that will continue for about a year.

        Bulldozers and backhoes will rumble where meditation was more the norm. Construction of a facility to accommodate the retired members of the order of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur will begin at the order's provincial center off Columbia Avenue.

(Artist's drawing)
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        The $3 million building replaces a 50-year-old residence hall and a guest house that have been razed.

        “We are expected to care for our sisters,” said Sister Claire Foley, provincial of the order of about 250 sisters. About 120 are retired from active ministry. The sisters of Notre Dame de Namur came to Cincinnati in 1840.

        “We came to the realization that we needed to make some adjustments for providing for long-term care.”

        The realization resulted in an analysis of the order's 20-acre tract next to Mount Notre Dame High School.

        “The (old) building housing our independent retired sisters really needed a great deal of renovation and upgrading and (the analysis) showed it was much wiser to tear it down and start anew,” Sister Foley said.

What: Center groundbreaking.
When: 9:30 a.m. Wednesday.
Where: Columbia Avenue east of Reading Road, Reading.
To donate to fund drive: Mount Notre Dame Development Center, 701 E. Columbia Ave., Cincinnati 45215; 761-7636.
Web site:
        The new building will house 40 skilled health-care rooms on the second floor for sisters who need daily medical assistance, and 40 rooms for retired sisters living independently. The construction has temporarily displaced about 45 nuns who are being housed by other religious orders or in nearby apartments or nursing care facilities. They will return when the new building opens in June 2001, said Sister Colette Didier, projects director for the order.

        Sisters receiving daily medical attention are now housed in the order's infirmary on the top floor of Julie Hall, the largest building on the grounds.

        When the new building opens, the sisters will welcome nuns of other orders who do not have nursing facilities — among them the Sisters of St. Joseph of Medaille and the Ursuline Sisters of Brown County.

        Money for the building has been secured through a fund drive that began in October and will continue until $6 million is raised. About $4 million has been received.

        The drive assists not only the building project but also three other areas:

        • A new-member initiative ($500,000): “There is a feeling out there that the lights are going out in religious orders. That is wrong,” said Sister Mary Ann Barnhorn, director of mission advancement. The order has recently welcomed one new member. Five others are close to taking vows, with six more actively involved in the process. About 50 young women have expressed interest in joining the order.

        • Entrepreneurial and housing assistance for women ($1.5 million): The sisters operate a pre-employment training program to provide job skills primarily in catering and food service. The order also operates Cincinnati Housing Partners, an endeavor to help women get out of debt and to provide affordable housing for themselves and their children.

        • School-centered programs ($1 million): This includes a mentoring program for students at Corryville Catholic elementary school and a scholarship program to provide about 24 scholarships a year to Catholic high schools for students from needy families.


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