St. Angela's Academy closed since 2007 until August purchase
By Kiply Lukan Yaworski
The Prairie Messanger
SASKATOON (CCN)--An Islamic boarding school for boys will open this fall in the former St. Angela's Convent and Academy at Prelate, Sask.
The newly created Islamic College of Saskatchewan took possession of the former convent and girls' boarding school Aug. 15 from the Ursulines of Prelate.
The buildings and grounds have been for sale since the Catholic girls' school closed in June 2007.
"We are pleased to have someone using it again," said Sister Anne Lewans, OSU, general superior of the Ursulines of Prelate. "As well, our mission is 'educating for life' and this is certainly another form of that."
School furnishings are included in the sale of the building, which features a gymnasium, computer lab, library, dormitories, chapel, dining room and kitchen facilities.
A grand opening for the Darul Uloom, or School of Knowledge, will be held Sept. 4, with students arriving within a few weeks, said director Mohammad Tayyab.
The new school will offer the approved Saskatchewan academic curriculum and Islamic religious studies to boys in Grades 4 to 12, with an eventual enrolment of about 100 students from around the country, he said.
Tayyab said it will replace another Islamic school that has operated in Hope for several years but was too small.
"We are transferring everything to Saskatchewan. St. Angela's Academy is large enough for us to accommodate all the students."
He expressed delight with the facility and the beautiful setting.
"I am very happy also that previously it was a religious school," he said. "It is the same purpose that we are using it for: academics plus religious teaching."
He added attendance would also be open to young men from the local community.
"This school is specifically for Muslim boys, but if boys of any other religion want to come for the academic program only, they are welcome."
Saskatoon Bishop Donald Bolen expressed relief that the Ursuline Sisters had finally been able to find a buyer for their building and wouldn't be saddled with the expense and emotional challenge of taking the building down. He wished the new owners well.
"The Catholic Church has long fostered friendly relations with Muslims, encouraging working together to strengthen the common good whenever possible," he said. "I hope that both the new school and the members of the community of Prelate will be blessed by the new arrangement, and find ways to co-operate together."
St. Angela's Academy opened in 1919 when three Ursuline Sisters from Germany came to educate the children of German immigrants. The school flourished and became widely known as a centre for Christian education for girls, with emphasis on the fine arts. With declining enrolments and an aging membership, the Ursulines of Prelate decided to close the academy in 2007 and put the buildings up for sale.
The Ursuline community is relieved to have finally sold the complex, said Sister Lewans, noting that there was an ongoing financial burden, including maintenance and insurance costs. Other offers received over the past four years never matured, she reported.
While rejoicing at the sale, the sisters are also experiencing some sadness in finally letting go of the building.
"It was our mother house and not just a school. That is where most of us lived and grew up," Sister Lewans said. "We have had a lot of letting go to do."
The last four sisters living at the convent in Prelate moved to Saskatoon in November.
"We have so much for which to be grateful: we have offered 88 years of well rounded, faith-based education there, with many fond memories. We have wonderful alumni. It has been good," said Sister Lewans. "We feel very blessed, but we also feel nostalgic."
She acknowledged that having the school close and the sisters leave the community has been difficult for Prelate-area residents, and there has been mixed reaction to news of the sale. Many are happy that the school is going to be used, and that the building will not be demolished.
The economic impact of having the new school open in the community may also help the area, Sister Lewans added.
"In this day and age, when we are very ecumenical and have inter-religious dialogue going on all the time (and) I think this is a great way to bring about understanding and acceptance and respect for all cultures," she said.
The director of the new Islamic school expressed appreciation for the welcome he has received so far in the community.
"I find everybody there very lovely, very friendly, and I think this is a good sign for us," Tayyab said. "We can work together."