Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of September 15, 2003
Priests take a tour of retirement home
Project to be completed in new year
By BILL GLEN
WCR Staff Writer
Retired priests of the Edmonton Archdiocese hoping to watch the river valley blaze into fall splendour from their new residence will have to wait longer than anticipated.
Because of construction delays, Villa Vianney, located on the grounds of the Catholic Pastoral Centre overlooking the North Saskatchewan River, will miss the fall completion date proposed earlier this year.
The early 20th-century building long provided a home for the Good Shepherd Sisters who donated the entire Catholic Pastoral Centre site to the archdiocese more than 15 years ago.
"We are now looking at a Jan. 1, 2004 move-in date," said Wayne Provencal, financial administrator for the archdiocese.
About 30 priests of various ages received a tour of the building Sept. 9, where finished suite designs were stapled to open wall studs at doorless entryways and the chapel bookshelf was adorned with dust and six construction hard hats.
"Things are going very well. The priests are going to have a look at the views, at the set-up of the rooms, and just the style of the building," Provencal said.
"We're dealing with an old building and we've just had some delays. It's nobody's fault. They just need to be dealt with and we'd rather deal with them properly so that we provide a good residence for the priests when we're all done."
Nine suites will be provided for the retired priests, many of whom have no immediate family nearby. Each suite, averaging about 800 square feet, will have a bedroom, washroom, a kitchenette and sitting room. It will be equipped with cable and television outlets with computer capability.
There will be a common dining room, a chapel and reading room, games room, wellness centre and an office for a doctor or nurse on call.
Much of the original treatments will be preserved, including tiled flooring and incredible door casements and stairwell banisters.
But it is the ties of friendship among peers that will be the most valuable asset of the structure. Having friends nearby will give the building life and love.
Msgr. Donald MacDonald, vicar-general of the archdiocese, was not available to join the tour but has already put his name in for residency.
"It's good to have a place to retire. It's a reasonable good place in itself," he said. "There is the camaraderie of the priests living in a community, in a sense, being close to each other."
While his immediate family resides "back east," MacDonald has had his eye on the site for some time.
"They've been looking at this for 40 or 50 years and it's finally coming to fruition. Most of the priests would be happy to realize there is a place for them when they retire. They don't have to be concerned with finding practical living accommodations suitable for them."
He believes that to some degree, it's been difficult for priests in the past to maintain a sense of community with other priests upon retirement.
"Sometimes parishioners do come and visit," he said.
Father Les Drewicki from St. Stephen Parish in Olds-Trochu was on hand. Although years away from retirement, he joined the tour to see what is being offered to his retiring friends.
"It's extremely impressive. It's wonderful. If I were going to retire soon, I'd have to give this strong consideration," he said.
"I love the idea, the sense that the guys could be together. The way everything is laid out, they'll have their own privacy and with a sense of community at the same time.
"The grounds, the view - magnificent. It must be pretty quiet around here at night so they'll be getting a good night's sleep."
The archdiocese is funding the renovations to the old convent that will provide sanctuary for the men who willingly gave their lives to serving others.
Provencal said the archdiocese is seeking donations from groups or individuals who wish to recognize the service the retired priests have performed.
All those interested can contact Father Greg Bittman or Wayne Provencal at (780) 469-1010 and Msgr. John Hamilton at (780) 467-5470.