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Crookston Sisters seeking space for new residence

The Sisters of St. Benedict's in Crookston gather for noon prayer Monday. Herald photo by Eric Hylden.

CROOKSTON--The Sisters of St. Benedict are one step closer to securing a new home.

Their current home of Marian Hall -- built in 1962 on the grounds of the Mount St. Benedict Monastery -- rests on a tract of land that could be the future location of an expansion project by Villa St. Vincent senior care facility.

The sisters agreed at a June 16 meeting to enter into a joint planning process with Benedictine Health System of Duluth to make the land available for an expansion in health and ministry services.

"This decision on the part of the sisters is very exciting and energizing," said Sister Jennifer Kehrwald, administrator of Mount St. Benedict Monastery. "The opportunity to nurture a ministry they love is good for the whole Crookston community."

The monastery owns the land needed for the expansion but Kehrwald said the monastery and BHS haven't entered into negotiations on the price of the property. Villa St. Vincent currently operates through a partnership between BHS and the sisters.

The exact Villa St. Vincent services that would grow with the expansion to a new building have not been finalized.

Smaller community

Marian Hall, which would be demolished to make room for the Villa St. Vincent expansion, is actually a high school by design. While in operation, it housed upward of 200 students and featured classrooms, dormitories and an expansive dining room and kitchen.

In 1982, the high school closed and the sisters moved into the dormitories shortly afterward said Sister Laurian Lasha, the monastery's archivist and community librarian. Little was done to adapt the high school into a suitable housing space for the group of sisters.

"We have a very large amount of space here," Kehrwald said. "But our community continues to get smaller."

Currently the hall is a full-time home to about 30 sisters instead of hundreds of students. The remaining 40 sisters within the Benedictine community live in assisted living facilities at the monastery, in Villa St. Vincent or are out conducting missionary work.

Those who do reside in the hall navigate the building's long hallways on a daily basis.

Lasha, who uses a cane to walk, hops on to a motorized scooter to travel through the hall.

"It's a pretty nice way to get around," she said, gesturing at her four-wheeled companion.

Moving up

Because of its large size, renovating Marian Hall would prove to be too costly of an option for the monastery. The sisters have explored other options in addition to renovation but ultimately decided to reach out to BHS with the offer of making land available for development.

If all goes according to plan, the sisters would be set to move into a new living space prior to the demolition of Marian Hall. The living space would be added on the monastery's Good Shepherd Hall, which is connected to Marian Hall.

Good Shepherd Hall contains administrative offices, a chapel and assisted living space. The new space would be tailored to fit the sister's lifestyle -- unlike the dormitories they reside in now.

"This building isn't built to accommodate a small population like ours," Kehrwald said. "There's excitement about having our own place."

The sisters will be entering into a planning process for the next year to determine what type of housing they will need. Construction on the new space and the demolition of Marian Hall is expected to start within the next two years Kehrwald said.

Reach Jewett at (701) 780-1108; (800) 477-6572, ext. 108 or send email to