SASKATOON — Mazenod Residence, a longtime home for the Oblates of Mary Immaculate in Saskatoon, was demolished at the beginning of March, after an extensive process of discernment and transition for members of the religious order.
Seeing the building come down March 2 - 3 was another difficult moment of “letting go,” said Rev. Bill Stang, OMI, describing a multi-year process of decision-making and relinquishment, as members of the order grappled with the reality of aging members, including some dealing with a range of health issues, as well as the challenges of the deteriorating residence building, and the ongoing call to continue to live the Oblate mission.
There are no plans to sell the property at the corner of Taylor Street and Saskatchewan Drive, or to close Queen’s House, said Stang, stressing that there is an ongoing discernment still continuing about the future of the religious order’s mission and ministry in Saskatoon.
“As someone said to me about this whole process, unless something dies, nothing new will come. Hopefully something can be reborn here,” said Stang, Saskatchewan District Community Superior.
Most of the priests and brothers who were living at Mazenod Residence are now settled in apartments or assisted living suites at Trinity Manor, a retirement housing development owned and operated by the Catholic Health Ministries of Saskatchewan adjacent to Samaritan Place nursing home in the Stonebridge neighbourhood of Saskatoon.
In addition to the 12 OMI community members now living at Trinity Manor, three are residing at Potter’s House, another longtime Oblate residence in Saskatoon.
Just as for anyone who is downsizing and moving to a retirement community, the transition involved some heartache and regret, but members of the Oblate community are now finding a new community at Trinity Manor, said Stang. The Oblates are beginning to feel at home there, he said, with Trinity staff members taking over tasks that were once handled by Brother Walter DeMong, OMI, or other fellow Oblates.
The transition has been a gradual process, beginning in 2008 with discussions about elder care and planning for the future, followed by the establishment of a property taskforce in 2013. As part of the move out of Mazenod Residence, furnishings and other material from the residence was dispersed, Stang noted, often given to those in need, or to other organizations. “We didn’t hold an auction, or sell anything,” he said. “It was given away.”
With the housing question resolved, the order continues to examine ways in which it will continue its mission and ministry in the community, which includes discussions about the ministry of Queen’s House. The retreat centre — which is also located on the Mazenod House property on the banks of the South Saskatchewan River — has been a spiritual resource for the Catholic community of Saskatoon and beyond for some 60 years.
The mandate of Queen’s House has evolved and expanded over those years, said director Brendan Bitz, emphasizing the strong community support and affection for the facility and its mandate, and ongoing efforts to upgrade the building and expand its offerings and the scope of its outreach.
“Oblates have touched in a wonderful and significant way the lives of countless individuals, families and communities through their dedicated service, sacrifice and charism of hospitality and charity to any and all,” said Bitz in a recent director’s report. “Renewal will be welcomed, is being anticipated and will be supported.”
Today, the retreat centre has built ecumenical connections and also serves as a gathering place for a broad range of groups in the wider community.
There is also a desire to serve those on the margins, Bitz added. A recent day for women who are newcomers to Saskatoon from all over the world was co-ordinated in conjunction with the Open Door Society, and had a profound impact on staff, he said.
Discernment about the future of Queen’s House is part of a larger picture for the country’s Oblates, who are also connected with other retreat houses across Canada. There are some 215 Oblates across the country, continuing in 60 different ministries; approximately 35 of those men are under the age of 60.
Consultation and planning about mission and ministry continued at recent Oblate leadership meetings in January and February and will be furthered at the national Oblate Convocation April 13 - 17 in Cornwall, Ont.