The Society of St. Margaret, an Episcopal religious women's order with a longstanding presence in the Boston area, is involved in a fascinating process of relocation.
In January, SSM leaders wrote of an upcoming transition:
From time to time life presents us all with the need to make a decision. We are writing to let you know that we have put our Boston convent on the market. The simple fact is that the convent is too large for us and we cannot afford to remain here, especially at a time when we are focusing our limited resources on our mission in Haiti, as well as Boston, Duxbury and New York City. The Sisters in Haiti have been carrying on valiantly, caring for those whose lives were impacted by the earthquake. We are committed to supporting and strengthening our ministry in Haiti, whose people continue to suffer. We sense an urgent need to re-configure our ministries, to reshape the way we live, so that our limited resources will be as productive as possible.
In mid-February, the word got out.
For more than 100 years, the nuns lived in four brownstones in Beacon Hill’s Louisburg Square, worshiping at the nearby Church of the Advent and the Church of St. John the Evangelist. In 1992, they sold their quarters — one of the buildings is now home to Senator John F. Kerry — and converted a nursing home they had previously run on Fort Hill in Roxbury into their convent.
But in recent years, the sprawling 35,000-square-foot convent has become too expensive and difficult to maintain for the 17 women who live there, many of them elderly, and the order has decided it is time to move again — to a retreat center the sisters operate in Duxbury.
Selling the convent, said Sister Carolyn Darr, the superior, would allow the sisters to devote more money and energy to their charitable and spiritual work — in particular, their small mission in Haiti, which the order has run since the 1920s and which suffered severe damage in last year’s earthquake.
“We had been talking about it because [the building] is simply more than we can manage,’’ Darr said in an interview in the convent’s sunlit chapel. “Then when the earthquake came, of course, that is our vital ministry, and we wanted to put our money behind the mission.’’
Now, the order reports, it has settled on an impressive design for a residence to be opened this summer that will very much fit in with its natural environs.
The future home of the Sisters of St. Margaret will have a traditional coastal look, with a hipped roof, a wrap-around porch, and shingle siding....
The residence will have a geothermal heating system and a solar installation that generates electricity and hot water. Solar power will also be used to run a two-story fountain in the main lobby, which will trickle a steady stream of water....
Proceeds from the sale of the Roxbury convent will be used to build the new residence in Duxbury. A capital campaign, dubbed Spirit & Light, is also getting underway to help finance the project as well as the renovation of the conference center.