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The Journal Gazette

Thursday, April 18, 2019 1:00 am

Victory Noll center set to close June 30

ROSA SALTER RODRIGUEZ | The Journal Gazette

The Victory Noll Education and Retreat Center in Huntington will close its doors June 30.

The center has sponsored public programming on issues of social justice, environmental sustainability and spirituality. Our Lady of Victory Missionary Sisters, on whose property the center was located, spun it off as a separate nonprofit organization in 2016.

The center tackled difficult topics including the death penalty, immigration and human trafficking in recent years. But it was unable to overcome financial and demographic challenges, said Sister Mary Jo Nelson, president of the sisters.

“The reason it is closing is that the sisters are in a long-range planning process because our demographics are changing. We are getting older and getting smaller, and we could not continue to sponsor the Victory Noll Center programming,” she said.

Nelson said the sisters are still open to having groups use the center's space and other areas of the campus for their own programming and retreats.

Those groups could be Catholic, non-Catholic or secular, although the sisters reserved the option of selecting appropriate applicants, Nelson said.

Nelson said 40 sisters now live on the campus, although many are infirm.

In recent years, they have disposed of some campus real estate to the Huntertown-based ACRES Land Trust for preservation.

Also, St. Anne's Community Health Center is now housed in a building on the campus, although the sisters do not own or operate St. Anne's, Nelson said.

Two employees will lose jobs when the center closes, but she said they have known about the impending closing for some time. 

In the future, other campus buildings may be repurposed, Nelson added.

However, it's difficult to repurpose a 19th-century building designed as a convent, she said.

“The congregation is not ending because we still have several sisters,” Nelson said. “I think the most important thing, even with all of these changes with buildings and structures and programming, is the deepening of the sisters' (spiritual) lives.

“That continues until the last sister dies, and that is not happening for a long time.”   

rsalter@jg.net