FORT SMITH, Ark. — In less than three weeks, the former St. Scholastica Monastery that sits on Albert Pike will be demolished. It’s been a fixture in Fort Smith since 1924.
In 2019, the sisters moved out of the former monastery and into their new monastery next door.
“We are more than a building, the monastery are the sisters,” said Sister Kimberly Rose Prohaska.
The Monastic Benedictine sisters moved into the former monastery that sits off Albert Pike in 1925. Prioress, Sister Kimberly Rose Prohaska says their numbers peaked at more than 300 sisters, now they have just 24 sisters.
“When I entered 32 years ago, I never thought this would be a decision our sisters would have to make and I don’t believe our sisters ever felt they would have to make,” she said.
Sister Prohaska says they aren’t alone, and that other monasteries across the country are also facing similar fates. She says they have looked at all possible options and felt it was prudent and good stewardship in honoring their Benedictine values to demolish the former monastery.
“It’s been very heartbreaking, and we understand it’s heartbreaking for the people of the River Valley and we walk with these people, we walk with everyone. We wish it could be different, but reality is reality,” she said.
A decade ago, the sisters received a quote of $15 million just to bring the plumbing and electric up to code. With inflation, they say it would cost a lot more.
“It will be a tremendous heartbreak for us when that day comes," Sister Prohaska said. "We pray that people will support our decision and hold us up because it is not easy. I can’t imagine for my sisters who have been here all these years and grew up in this monastery."
Sister Maria Deangli is one of those sisters. She came to St. Scholastica Monastery for high school back in the 1940s and the former monastery was her home until they moved.
“It will be painful. We have gone through some processes of saying goodbye to the building, but I think the day we say the final goodbye it’s going to be another traumatic experience for us,” Sister Deangli said.
She says she knows everyone will miss seeing the building, but it’s just a building, it’s not them.
“We all move. We all advance and move along, and that building has served its purpose,” she said.
The sisters are looking to repurpose the land once the former monastery is demolished. They plan to form a committee to decide what the best use would be for this land.
They estimate that it will take between one and three months to completely demolish the former monastery. Again, demolition is set to begin on June 1.
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