As the Sisters of St. Benedict’s prepare to complete the sale of their property in West St. Paul, a special ceremony was held to honour the transition to the Southeast Resource Development Council (SERDC), an organization representing eight Indigenous communities. In the chapel of their monastery, each of the Sisters was wrapped in a star blanket by members of SERDC. In the tradition of Indigenous people, star blankets symbolise respect for elders and those who are pursuing worthy endeavours.
When the Sisters, who count 11 members in their local order, decided it was time to sell their monastery and conference centre, they had hopes that the spirit of their mission would live on somehow. The SERDC has many plans which will do just that. “They have an evolving mandate, but are focusing on wellness, health and spirituality for the people in their communities,” explains Sister Mary Coswin. “We were on board right away. They respect the land and aren’t going to tear down the building. Most importantly, this was their land and it’s going back to them.”
Sister Dorothy Levandowski agrees and adds, “We had found artifacts on the land over the years, near the river. There were arrowheads. They were here long before we were.”
The ceremony, while a new experience, was very moving for the sisters. “I was nervous!” admits Sister Dorothy. “It was very different for us. I was able to thank them for coming and then sing a blessing. We raised our hands together. All of us. It was really beautiful.”
She was also touched by the care and attention the SERDC group brought to the ceremony. “They are so centred and focused; their whole beings spelled gratitude,” she remembers. “Our sisters were placed in a semi-circle and they surrounded us. It was like they were holding us, cherishing us. There was such care in every movement, in every word.”
The Sisters, sad to be leaving their home but looking forward to what’s next, are grateful for the work the SERDC will do in the site for years to come. “There was a feeling of overriding unity as I looked at our community and I looked at the SERDC community,” reflects Sister Dorothy. “I could see who we were and who they will be. We celebrated the continuation of the legacy, together.”
Réseau Compassion Network supported the Sisters with the sale of their property and are assisting with the construction of a new property on Youville Street in Winnipeg, where the nuns will have all the services and supports they need for this next stage in their lives.