THREATENED: Benedictine Sisters’ St. Scholastica Monastery to be Closed and Sold

St. Scholastica Monastery, Benedictine Sisters of Chicago, 1906, 7430 N. Ridge Blvd. Photo credit: Eric Allix Rogers

“A bittersweet end is coming for the longtime home of the Benedictine Sisters of Chicago — but if it’s God’s will, so be it, its prioress said.

“For more than a century, the nuns have lived and worked on a nearly 15-acre campus at 7430 N. Ridge Blvd. in West Ridge, which at one point housed about 200 nuns.

“But as the number of nuns has fallen to 19 and their median age stretches into the 80s, the Catholic order of religious women have had trouble with upkeep of their sprawling campus. It is also not adequate for aging-in-place, with renovations to make it such being too costly.

“At first, the Benedictines sought to sell a portion of their campus to a senior living developer who would build a retirement home on the site, allowing the nuns to stay in their home of nearly 120 years.

“The sisters hired a consulting firm to pitch the plan to developers, but the pandemic slowed interest and ultimately, there were no takers, said Sister Mary Susan Remsgar, the prioress of the local Benedictine order.

“‘In a recent public letter, the sisters said they are preparing to put the entire campus up for sale. They plan to move out within the next two years, Remsgar said. The finances of running a large campus have become too much of a challenge for the few women who remain, Remsgar said.

“The Benedictine Sisters came to Chicago in 1861. Their first convent and school were built at Chicago and Wabash avenues, but it was destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.

“The order then built St. Scholastica Monastery on Ridge Boulevard in 1906. The following year, St. Scholastica Academy High School opened on the campus.

“The high school closed in 2013, citing dwindling enrollment and high costs. The school building was then leased to Cruz Acero School, a kindergarten through 12th grade charter, with the sisters living next door.

“The sisters are open to different buyers, and there’s some early hope a new school might take over the campus, Remsgar said. The sisters would also like their green spaces to be preserved. Though leaving the campus wont be easy, Remsgar said the Benedictines will continue to pray for the community and perform ministry work in the area. Their faith and commitment to the community transcend a physical building, she said.

“‘We can’t take our chapel with us, unfortunately,’ Remsgar said. ‘But we believe we are more than our place.’ (Liederman, Block Club Chicago, 10/19/23)

“St. Scholastica Monastery is home to the Benedictine Sisters of Chicago. The monastery’s chapel contains brilliantly painted 1938 murals by Josef Steinhage in the Beuronese style of Germany’s Maria Laach Abbey. The murals were refurbished by Joseph Ramirez and Sean Culver in the 1990s. From 1907 to 2013, the adjacent buildings–which now contain a charter school–were operated by the Sisters as St. Scholastica Academy. The monastery grounds, totaling more than 14 acres, contain a grape arbor, gardens and a labyrinth.” (Open House Chicago)

Preservation Chicago strongly encourages the adaptive reuse of the Benedictine Sisters of Chicago campus and the Chicago Landmark Designation of the significant buildings and greenspace prior to the sale. According to the extensive research on the campus conducted by Preservation Chicago, the campus has an important cultural history that should be recognized and celebrated. Additionally, the campus was designed to provide homes to over 200 nuns. The existing housing units should be renovated and used again as housing for Chicagoans.

Read the full story at Block Club Chicago

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