Like many other religious communities of Sisters, the Sisters of the Order of St. Basil the Great of Uniontown, Pa. are facing the challenges of decreasing vocation numbers and shrinking resources.
The Sisters, who make their home at Mount St. Macrina (formerly Oak Hill estate and the home J.V. Thompson, of the famous coal baron), are in the midst of planning a future for underutilized and aging structures on the property.
“Right now we are in the initial planning stages and we are seeking possible candidates who may have innovative plans for these buildings,” said Sr. Ruth Plante, Provincial, Sisters of St. Basil.
The Sisters are considering many ideas, including affordable housing, medical and education services. It is of upmost importance for them to keep with the mission of their community – “a praying, healing, life-giving presence.”
The Sisters plan to remain living at Mount St. Macrina and will continue their ministry of the annual Pilgrimage in honor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, which has been held over Labor Day weekend for the past 83 years.
Originally the property, situated along the National Road (Route 40), was acquired by the Sisters in 1933, after J.V. Thompson went into bankruptcy. The House of Prayer, which is now a retreat center, was his three-story mansion. The Oak Hill estate was a wedding gift to his second wife Honey. Thompson died in 1933 and the Sisters moved onto the property in December 1933, and their first Pilgrimage was held the following year.
Recently, the Sisters were awarded a grant from the National Religious Retirement Office. The grant paid for an evaluation of the property and buildings. The study was conducted by Hoffman Planning, Design and Construction, Appleton, Wisc.
A request for proposals will soon be distributed. Plans are to review the proposals in late winter-early spring.
“The halls and grounds are filled with so many memories. The thought of sharing or letting pieces of the property go is very emotional for us, but also very necessary. We trust God will send us the right people to continue his plan,” added Ruth.
The Sisters have enlisted the services of Newmark Grubb, a real estate marketing firm in Pittsburgh, to create a marketing brochure.