Magazine article Momentum

New Convent Expresses Appreciation for Religious Community's Commitment

Magazine article Momentum

New Convent Expresses Appreciation for Religious Community's Commitment

Article excerpt

Despite a national trend of convent closings, a Phoenix project garnered immediate and full financial support from the civic and alumnae community XAVIER COLLEGE PREPARATORY SCHOOL PHOTOS

Off one of the busiest streets in downtown Phoenix, Arizona, stands a striking but modest stucco house. The construction and aesthetic are typical of the Phoenix metropolitan area, but something about this structure is different. Above the front door hangs the crest of Xavier College Preparatory High School. Engraved in the entryway is the crest of the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. And parked in the driveway, a vehicle sports a personalized license plate that reads "SISTA."

More than a house, the newly constructed Xavier convent is home to Catholic sisters from the order of the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (BVM). Despite a national trend of convent closings, the project garnered immediate and full financial support from the Phoenix community. This is because the women living here have shaped their community through their 73-year educational ministry to the children of Phoenix.

The original convent, located across the street from this new home, was built for the BVM sisters staffing Xavier College Preparatory (established 1943) and neighboring St. Francis Xavier grade school (established 1936). Xavier, a state and national leader in Catholic and college preparatory education, continues to operate under BVM leadership and remains the cornerstone of the order's educational ministry in Phoenix.

The sisters resided in the original convent, nestled between the two schools' campuses, for 55 years. In 2006 they were asked to relocate so that the property could be used for the parish to expand the grade school. The sisters, supportive of the parish and its initiatives since 1936, began making plans to move.

Joyful Community Response

The sisters faced a difficult situation. Their on-campus location at Xavier had allowed their presence and ministry to remain strong and vital. They are the first to arrive on school mornings and the last to leave. The school had become an extension of their home and a dynamic embodiment of their ministry and values. It would be an expensive endeavor to build a modern convent, and they wondered if the community would be supportive. To leave would mean distancing themselves from their life's work. They chose to stay, renewing their commitment to their ministry and to Xavier. The community responded with joy.

"The way the Xavier community rallied around us was an amazing and humbling experience," said Sister Lynn Winsor, Xavier vice principal for activities and adiletics and a Xavier alumna. "We are overwhelmed by their support and we are truly blessed for the opportunity to remain on the school's campus as a living witness of Christ's mission of helping others."

Students, alumnae, parents, alumnae parents, faculty and friends of Xavier quickly came together to raise funds for the new home. Within a year the project received $1.8 million in pledges from the community and construction of the Xavier convent began in the summer of 2007. The sisters chose the architecture firm DAVIS to design and Opus West to construct a modern convent, one of only about 900 convents nationwide.

"It had the feel of a traditional barn-raising," said Carol Crockett, Xavier director of advancement and also a graduate of both schools. "The Xavier community put its arms around this project and said, 'Let's do this and let's do it right.' In addition to the hundreds of financial gifts and gifts of material and labor, we received handwritten notes of support for the sisters and the project. People gave it a high level of very personal, prayerful support."

What's a Convent?

"In some initial conversations about plans, permits and construction, we met some people who didn't even know what a convent was," said Tom Roberts, president of Opus West. …

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