Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of October 17, 2005
Bosco Homes seeks building's heritage status
Centralized services adds up to financial savings, efficiency
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
The non-profit society that bought the Franciscan Friary and the adjacent St. Francis Church on 66 Street and 129th Avenue is determined to preserve the building's heritage.
Bosco Homes, a society that provides support to emotionally scarred children, has already applied for official historical designation for the friary in order to make the friary part of the city's heritage, said Gus Rozycki, the society's founder and executive director.
"Now the good news is that once you get official historical designation, both the city and the province make funding available from time to time to help maintain the historical appearance of the building." Rozycki expects the application to be approved within weeks.
A few years ago, Bosco Homes got official historical designation for St. Vital House, a former Oblate facility the society bought from the Oblates nearly seven years ago. "And then we got some (50/50) grants and we fixed up the exterior and we fixed the heating system," Rozycki explained.
St. Francis of Assisi Parish was established in 1909 and soon became the Franciscans' centre for missionary and pastoral work in the West. They built their massive friary in 1925 and operated St. Anthony's College in the area for the next 40 years.
The Franciscans sold the friary earlier this year because it became too big for their dwindling numbers. The large, red brick facility had only 13 occupants in 2004. The adjacent St. Francis Church had to close because neither the Franciscans nor the Edmonton Archdiocese could spare a priest to operate it.
In agreement with the archdiocese, which owns the church, both the friary and the church were put up for sale.
The three-storey building, sitting on three and a half acres of land, was exactly what Bosco needed. The society had been operating from leased facilities for a number of years. It used to lease two schools from Edmonton Catholic in addition to a commercial facility near the old Edmonton General Hospital.
"And the cost of those three leases was far more than our payments are here with the mortgage. So it made economic sense to find a place of our own," Rozycki said.
After a few renovations - largely converting Franciscan bedrooms into office space - the friary became the headquarters of Bosco Homes for Alberta and the Northwest Territories. The charitable society, founded by Rozycki in 1987, serves more than 200 emotionally disturbed children at any given time. Two of the society's four school programs for disturbed children operate in the new Bosco facility; the other two operate in Strathcona County and Stony Plain.
"It's all offices here," said Rozycki. "We have our administration here, we have our clinical services here, we have our training programs here, we have our support services here and of course two of our school programs are here." The building houses more than 40 offices, meeting rooms and boardrooms.
Some organizations lease space from Bosco, including the Northeast Edmonton 19th Dragoons Army Cadets, which uses a good part of the former St. Francis Church as its base of operations.
In response to the needs of the community, Bosco decided to continue the St. Francis Parish's Food Bank. It uses part of the former Franciscan cafeteria as its distribution centre.
"We have a partnership with the (food bank) volunteers and we are not charging them any rent," Rozycki said. "They are staying here as part of the historical service, if you will."
The secular Franciscans and Alcoholic Anonymous also have offices at the former friary.