Rooms abound in Providence Centre that can be used for meetings and socializing as well as for retreats and workshops.

WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ

Rooms abound in Providence Centre that can be used for meetings and socializing as well as for retreats and workshops.

December 7, 2015
RAMON GONZALEZ
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
Srs. Mary Lee Gordon and Christina Wong each help run Providence Centre

WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ

Srs. Mary Lee Gordon and Christina Wong each help run Providence Centre.

For a long time the Sisters of Providence had wanted to locate their northwestern headquarters in Edmonton to provide a central hub for their ministries in Alberta, British Columbia and the Yukon.

So in 1964 they came from Calgary and began building a massive complex called Providence Centre at 3005-119 St.

They built it larger than required for their own needs because that was the tendency in the 1960s and because the Edmonton Archdiocese had asked them to provide space for retreats and religious formation, recalls Sister Mary Lee Gordon, the administrator of Providence Centre.

The complex opened in late 1965 and since then Providence Centre has been a hub of religious activity in the city, offering conferences and retreats and housing elderly and infirm sisters of various congregations.

The centre also contains a well-stocked library

WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ

The centre also contains a well-stocked library

"In the beginning (the centre) had a strong educational component, offering formation for both sisters and seminarians," explained Gordon. "It was a strong place of education, spiritual development and for us to gather as a community."

Things haven't changed that much, except for the fact that in 1983 the sisters dedicated the north wing of the complex exclusively to conferences and retreats, calling it Providence Renewal Centre.

Providence Renewal has a separate administration but the sisters oversee the whole building and provide maintenance and housekeeping as well as hospitality.

The whole Providence complex has more than 100 rooms, including bedrooms, sitting rooms and conference halls. The main dining room can accommodate up to 150 people.

Staff at the centre's state-of-the-art kitchen can prepare up to 300 meals a day, both for the sisters in residence and those attending retreats. The sisters also allow for the use of their beautiful chapel, which is the heart of the building.

Providence Renewal Centre has a welcoming entrance for those who attend retreats.

WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ

Providence Renewal Centre has a welcoming entrance for those who attend retreats.

"After 50 years, we are still doing the same thing. We are doing it slightly differently, of course, but the fundamentals of what we are doing remain the same," explains Gordon.

"We care for our sisters and we walk with them through the different stages of slowing down, we continue to open our doors for hospitality and for receiving people and we continue to be involved in retreats and formation work."

Sister Christina Wong, a member of the provincial council, describes Providence Centre as an ecumenical centre animated by the sisters' spirit of compassion and strong belief in Gospel values. "We are open to others' faiths as well."

A total of 52 sisters live in residence at Providence Centre, including 29 Sisters of Providence and 23 sisters from 11 other communities. In addition, a number of Sisters of Providence live in other parts of Edmonton.

The Sisters of Providence continue to attract new vocations. One sister made her first vows in April, and another entered as a candidate in June. During the summer, the congregation welcomes many young women who come to experience a taste of religious life.

Gordon and Wong say the Sisters of Providence are doing well and have no plans to get rid of their building.