By Stephen Floyd
After 134 years, the Benedictine Sisters of Mount Angel will be leaving the Queen of Angels Monastery, with plans to repurpose part of the facility as transitional housing for families in need.
Membership within the monastic community has been in decline, as elsewhere in the U.S., with the number of religious sisters nationally dropping from 161,000 in 1970 to around 39,000 in 2021, according to a September article by Catholic Sentinel.
The Benedictine Sisters peaked in 1964 with 144 nuns. Currently 16 remain, many more than 80 years old. By this summer, the majority of the Sisters will move to Mount Angel Towers, a retirement community the order helped found. Those requiring more assistance will relocate to Providence Benedictine Nursing Center, which the order also founded.
The monastery building will move into the care of Catholic Community Services (CCS) to be developed as apartments for St. Joseph Family Shelter, a transitional housing program founded by the Sisters in 1988 which CCS has overseen since 2017. Other programs including the Mission Benedict resource program and the Father Bernard Youth Center will remain active on the grounds.
The plan calls for remaining property to be developed by Mountain West Investments as mixed-density housing, ranging from tiny homes and single-family units to duplexes and triplexes.
The Sisters, developer and other stakeholders are working with the City of Mount Angel. An initial meeting with city administration was scheduled for Jan. 13. In a January presentation before the Mt. Angel Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, representatives estimated homes to be built at the “mid-100s”. Development of the property will provide funds for the Sisters’ future housing, care and other needs.
Queen of Angels Monastery was built in 1888 by an order of Swiss nuns established in 1882. Their initial ministry focused on education in and around the region including the founding of Mount Angel College, which trained teachers and eventually became a liberal arts college until closing in the 1970s.
They also focused on outreach to those less fortunate, founding St. Joseph Family Shelter and Mission Benedict, as well as Benedictine Nursing Center in 1957 to care for the elderly and Casa Adele in 1988 to provide housing for migrant worker families at a former dorm for the college.
Though the Sisters are transitioning away from the monastery grounds, those able intend to remain active in ministry, including education and outreach to the local community, and will maintain offices in the monastery.