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Groundbreaking Held for New St. Francis Convent

Posted on: October 30th, 2017 by Jean Merry

Groundbreaking for the new St. Francis Convent on South Lake Drive in St. Francis, Wisconsin, was held on Sunday, October 29, on the site of the former St. Mary’s Academy/Marian Center, which was recently deconstructed. Sister Diana De Bruin, director of the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi, and Sisters Marcia Lunz and Sylvia Anne Sheldon, associate directors, turned the first shovels of dirt, along with The Most Reverend Richard J. Sklba, Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus of Milwaukee, and Sister Charlotte Roost, the administration’s liaison for the construction project. They were joined by Mike Groth, principal of Groth Design Group, the architectural firm; Ben Baenen, senior project manager, VJS Construction Services; CoryAnn St. Marie-Carls, mayor of the City of St. Francis; Nathan Pamperin of Groth Design and the owner’s representative for the project; and Sr. Ellen Carr, capital campaign director.

More than 100 gathered at the current Motherhouse for the event, which began with a prayer service in the Troubadour Room. The group then moved to the construction site, where the ground was blessed, with each person who turned soil sprinkling the ground with holy water as attendees sang “Holy Ground” by Christopher Beatty. A reception followed in Troubadour, where slides of the new convent renderings were shown.

Attendees were informed that salvageable Cream City bricks from the deconstructed building are available to family, friends and St. Mary’s graduates for $25 each, with the proceeds going to the sisters’ building project. In the future, memorial bricks, which will be engraved and incorporated into the final landscape, will also be available. The details for these sales and other opportunities for donating to the new convent will be available soon on the congregation website,

After the City of St. Francis gave unanimous approval of the architectural plans at its Common Council meeting on October 3, groundbreaking plans were set in motion, and a proposed completion of Spring 2019 was established. Work began on the footings and foundation on October 30.

Signage showing a rendering of the new convent will be posted on the property at 3221 South Lake Drive the week of October 30. The bronze relief of St. Francis with the animals, currently mounted on the façade of the Motherhouse, will be placed on the new building facing Lake Drive. A number of other artifacts, including the cupolas, stained glass windows, mosaics and a lintel, from the deconstructed St. Mary’s Academy/Marian Center will also be incorporated.

When completed, the convent wings on the north and south, which will house 80 sisters needing memory support and assisted living, are designed with the residential rooms at the perimeter of the building, and community gathering and dining spaces in the center. The administrative offices will be relocated to the second floor of the “town square,” which connects the two wings.

In the image above, the first shovels of ground were turned by (l to r) Sr. Charlotte Roost, The Most Reverend Richard J. Sklba, and Sisters Diana De Bruin, Sylvia Anne Sheldon and Marcia Lunz. In the background are (l to r) Mayor CoryAnn St. Marie-Carls, and Nathan Pamperin and Mike Groth, both of Groth Design Group.

The two renderings show, included here, show the placement of the bronze St. Francis relief on the South Lake Drive façade of the new convent and the front of the new convent, from an aerial perspective looking toward Lake Michigan. The latter view will be posted on signage at the construction siteAerial-Bldg Front St Francis Relief on Bldg