Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Maplewood / Neighbors Object to Battered Woman's Shelter at Benedictine Monastery Site

Neighbors of a Maplewood monastery are fighting a plan to turn the building into a shelter for battered women.

The Sisters of St. Benedictine of St. Paul's Monastery plan to move into a smaller monastery to be built on their 34-acre campus on Larpenteur Avenue to fit their dwindling numbers. The current building would be sold and converted into a 64-bed homeless shelter. In addition, 90 units of affordable housing would be built adjacent to the monastery. "This is what God is calling them to do," says Jean Hartman, the monastery's director of finance and administration.

A different calling - "not in my neighborhood" - has motivated others. Carrie and John Hansen, who live 1½ miles by car from the monastery, say the plan would subject the neighborhood to more traffic, potential crime and reduced property values.

The sisters also will continue running their child-care center, a Benedictine retreat and a program called Ministry of Mothers Sharing, along with outreach and teaching programs outside the monastery.

There were 244 sisters at their mansion on St. Paul's Summit Avenue in 1965, when the order's growth spurred the move to Maplewood. St. Paul architect Val Michelson built a six-story main residential hall, a central entry with administrative offices and another wing with a chapel, dining rooms and a large kitchen beneath a dramatic folded concrete roof. But in the decades since, the number of sisters has dropped to 58 - their median age is 76 - and while their vow of poverty funnels every dime they earn back into the monastery, too few of them are working to bring in the kind of money it takes to maintain the building.

"They're not planning for their demise. They're planning for their life," Hartman says.

Those plans don't consider the neighborhood, says Hansen, the block captain for her neighborhood crime watch and the mother of three children, ages 11 to 15.

"We're a neighborhood full of families and a group of people who have an identity with the area we live, and the sisters don't seem to have the same perspective," she says. "They're very focused on the low-income housing and the shelter - both doing wonderful things - but our concern is that, as a neighborhood, this doesn't fit in well." [...snip] Pioneer Press


Sanctus Belle said...

I find it so sad that the dwindling convents (any wonder they don't wear habits) sell off their buildings and land for secular use when there are orders who are orthodox, wear habits who have the vocation crisis of not enough space for all thier young new nuns! Oh well, another thing to pray about, another thing to feel frustrated about.

Laura The Crazy Mama said...

I had the same reaction as santus belle. I feel bad for the sisters that nobody wants to join them and their mission is well-intentioned but it's going to be doubtful that they can control the mission to mothers/women in the future if they are getting so old and need care for themselves! What happens when some secular group takes over and the mothers/women/AND sisters are left in the dust. So there again is another government run "center for women" that doesn't end up treating the problem of fatherless children or the situations that made them that way. I don't know what the answer is but I know what it's not. When I first saw the article in the Catholic Spirit I groaned thinking, "Here is a recipe for disaster!" Apparently I'm not the only one who thinks this.

Unknown said...

Interesting post, Sanctus.

You'd think that there could be a way that orders could share space.

But I'd bet that the "progressive orders" wouldn't want to be reminded that they made the wrong decision 35 years ago and it is probably too late to turn back the clock for them.


The Ironic Catholic said...

OK, Maybe I'm missing something, but the Benedictines never struck me as "liberal."

I fail to see how their choice to open their land to battered women needing space impacts the neighborhood. Other than raising the Christian charity quotient.

Unknown said...


NIMBY(Not in my back yard!)

I would imagine that the Benedictines get classified as "liberal" by some for abandoning the habit. Although I don't think all have.

I would assume that the neighbors assume that many children and many boyfriends, none of whom will meet their standards, will begin to populate the neighborhood.

Maplewood also happens to be the most disfunctional suburb in the metro area. In about 1957, someone got the idea of incorporating all of the unincorporated areas in Ramsey County adjacent to the City of St Paul as one community before the City of St Paul annexed them all. This is what resulted:{09139061-955B-4C98-A3B5-73E1537C66A5}

I would guess those are 1 mile by .5 mile "half-sections" of land. They comprise the city limits of Maplewood. Mostly what makes Maplewood work is 3M mostly located in Maps 32 and 33. Maplewood Mall is probably up around Map 25 or so. Otherwise, there is no focus to Maplewood and its City Council, appointed commissioners and public employees have fought publicly with each other for many years over many decisions. (I used to work for the City of Stillwater in the 70s).

Just thoughts off of the top of my head.

Anonymous said...

The Hansen's really do need to get a life!! They live 1.5 miles away for crying out loud! The sisters are to be applauded!! Battered women need
to be able to escape their violence-filled life and raise their children without violence, or the cycle of violence has a higher probability of
continuing, over and over again..
And for thye record ... I am a Neighborhood Watch volunteer in my neighborhood. Plus I just had a Registered Sex Offender move in next to me and one driveway away from the school bus stop!! Hansens - Count your blessings and try to e a blessing to others!
Janice Vocke

Cathy_of_Alex said...

A lot of people only want to see social service agencies in the inner city, (and usually only certain areas of the inner city)not in the suburbs. However, there is a great need for social service agencies outside of the inner cities. Food shelves, the few that are, in the suburbs are heavily used. There's a lot of domestic violence in the 'burbs too. A lot of people just don't want to face the fact that their neighbors may have needs or problems. They want to think it's someone else and somewhere else.

What the suburbanites in this story fail to realize is that the inner city neighborhoods are getting tired of getting all the social service agencies and they are starting to NIMBY as well.

The only people hurt by these stances are the people in real need.

I'm sad that the sisters are losing members and I'm sad that another group of sisters were not offered an opportunity for the land. However, I applaud the sisters choice.