Convent transition will take time, nun says

By Brandi Makuski

It will take time for a Franciscan community to relocate its 28 sisters to an Ohio health care facility, the order said on Monday.

For now, sisters of St. Joseph of the Third Order of St. Francis will continue holding a public, daily mass in the church at 1300 Maria Dr. at 11:15 a.m.

“Our Eucharist is the center of our life,” said Sister Michelle Wronkowski, who serves on the board of directors for the order. “The public is welcome to share in that daily celebration.”

The SSJ-TOSF confirmed last week it intended to close the 117-year-old Motherhouse, repurposing it “in a way that will benefit the city of Stevens Point and its residents,” as it prepares to relocate just under 200 sisters from orders in three states to Garfield Heights, Ohio, home to Marymount Health Care Systems Group.

Four sisters were located shortly after the New Year, Wronkowski said, adding relocations would occur on a case-by-case basis based on medical need.

“We are in the early stages of relocating the sisters who may need more assisted care,” she said. “The [relocation] completion date or time is not planned. Also, the weather is not always in our favor this time (of year) in Central Wisconsin.”

Wronkowski said more than half the order’s membership is over the age of 80 and in need of regular living assistance, putting the organization in a fiscal pinch.

“Last year, for the first time in our history, our compensation was not adequate to meet our sisters’ living expenses,” Wronkowski told the Metro Wire.

The 35-acre parcel of land, which contained a pine grove and small farmhouse, was located inside the Town of Hull in 1901 when it was purchased from the Bulmanski Family by Rev. Luke Pescinski for $3,500. In 1902, the building was incorporated as the St. Joseph Polish Academy. After securing an $80,000 loan, the sisters hired an architect and began planning the construction of a convent-school.

“The construction of St. Joseph Polish Academy was an all-town affair,” a story in Vol. 7 No. 1 issue of The Past, a congregation new magazine, reads in part. “People from Stevens Point came to help whenever they could, usually after their own day’s work. Men helped clear the area while women set up a bazaar that would bring in necessary funds for the project. It seemed that all of Stevens Point was making an investment of time and energy into the building.”

Wronkowski said at present, the convent is not for sale.

“We will continue to work in collaboration with the city and congregation regarding the future of St. Joseph Motherhouse and the 40 acres around it,” she said.

It was not immediately clear how many civilians employees working at the convent would be affected by the relocation, or what future plans might be for the small cemetery located on the land.

The convent building is the last surviving Catholic campus in Stevens Point. Previously, the St. Stephen Parish Convent, which opened in 1954 at 1401 Clark St. but fell into disrepair and could no longer be financially maintenance by the church. That convent building was demolished in 2015.