.

Benedictine Sisters Plan Move to Richland, Farewell Open Houses for Alumni

The sisters have lived and served in Ross Township for more than eight decades. The move out of the 78,000-square-foot monastery and former all-girls school is being done out of good stewardship, they said.

Ground is expected to be broken in the spring on a new home for the Benedictine Sisters of Pittsburgh, a monastic community of women that has lived and served in Ross Township since about 1926. 

The new monastery will be located in Richland Township, on property located at 3526 Bakerstown Road that the sisters purchased in December. It will be about a third of the size of the 78,000-square-foot convent at 4530 Perrysville Avenue. 

"We are very, very happy to have lived and served in the North Hills Area. It has been a wonderful experience for us to live here and be part of the community," said Sister Evelyn Dettling, a spokeswoman for the convent. 

"It is only out of a sense of good stewardship that we are moving," she said, adding that the 10.8 acres of land in Ross and additional 40,000-square-foot building behind the monastery have become too much to maintain. 

"We have great reverence for all that we own and use," she said. "We feel that with this many buildings, too many of our resources are going into maintenance rather than ministry and service." 

The property in Ross, which was built in 1926 to serve both as housing for the sisters and as an all-girls school, is still on the market. It was appraised in November 2009 at $3.2 million. Dettling said there has been serious interest, but no buyer as of yet. 

The sisters numbered about 100 when the building opened and peaked at about 200 during the mid-1960s. There are 52 remaining, with 44 living on-site in addition to others outside the community whom the sisters have taken in.

Rare tours of the monastery will be given to former alumni of St. Benedict's Academy in the upcoming months during scheduled Farewell Open Houses. (See below for the schedule.) 

The school operated from 1931 until 1949 in the main building as Mount St. Mary's High School for Girls, and from 1950 until 1985 in the building behind the monastery as St. Benedict Academy.

"The academy was certainly a big part of our service to the North Hills," said Dettling, who taught at the school. "It was an exciting thing to work with all those young women and to help prepare them for their life's journey." 

In more recent years, the former school was home to five nonprofits.

The new monastery in Richland Township is to be built on about 11.8 acres of land that had been a farm. A 4,536-square-foot farmhouse on the property that was built in 1831 and used as part of the Underground Railroad will remain in use as a welcome center for the sisters. 

"The moment we stepped foot on the property, we knew it was a sacred space and our hearts told us that this was where God is sending us," said Prioress Sister Benita DeMatteis, in a prepared statement. 

Dettling said it's sad to think about leaving Ross township, but it's also an exciting time. 

"It's like the two sides of a coin," she said. "We're very, very excited and very happy about the possibility of moving to Bakerstown Road, to meeting new people, to serving new needs and to being able to steward our resources more to mission and ministry." 

What memories do you have of attending St. Benedict's Academy or serving with the sisters? Tell us in the comments!


The Farewell Open Houses

If you are a former student of St. Benedict Academy, the sisters are offering a series of Farewell Open Houses on the following Saturdays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m: March 31 for the classes 1970 through 1986; April 21 for the classes 1964 through 1969; May 5 for the classes 1956 through 1963; and June 2 for the classes 1935 through 1955. 

RSVP by Feb. 28. If you are unable to attend with your class, choose the date most convenient for you. The sisters recommend car pooling, if possible. 

Evelyn Dettling February 03, 2012 at 07:06 PM
I have so many wonderful memories of teaching at SBA. We were all young and enthusiastic and I loved my students. I taught Latin, Religion, English and I was a part-time guidance counselor. Do some of you remember learning to fall gracefully to the floor for the death scene in The Trojan Women? Do you know who had a cranberry and pink habit and why? It was fun being prompter for the senior plays even though you kept me up all hours of the night and I had to be up at 5:00 am for morning prayer! And I know who put the cigarettes in the hand of the St. Benedict Statue at the top of the hill!!!! Sister Evelyn
Sister Judith Ann Criner February 03, 2012 at 08:02 PM
Teaching at St. Benedict Academy was a wonderful experience for me. I came to love secondary education and my "extra-curricular education" -- what I learned from the students. I remember the Senior Proms, Senior Plays, Graduations, Glee Programs, Ministry Club and Assemblies. Working with each class of girls brought different joys and blessings -- and more than a few gray hairs.
Shelly Farabaugh February 03, 2012 at 10:50 PM
Very nice article, as an SBA alum--glad to see nice information.
Celeste McWhirter February 04, 2012 at 04:16 AM
Although I went to Holy Ghost High, on the next hill, I remember the great rivalry with St. Benedict's and the friends I had there. I also remember two incredible perfomances of Anna and the King (The King and I) and The Miracle Worker. These girls were so talented. Good Luck to the Sisters at their new location.
Annie Heid February 04, 2012 at 12:07 PM
Sr Evelyn, do you remember what brand of cigarette that awful girl used.................just askin
Annie Heid February 04, 2012 at 12:13 PM
Like Bon Jovi sings ; those were the best days of my life
Kristen C February 04, 2012 at 03:53 PM
So many wonderful memories at SBA and with all of the Sisters. This is a wonderful article and I wish the sisters much love and peace on their new adventure.
Valerie Lippert Pierce February 04, 2012 at 09:47 PM
I have so many wonderful memories of SBA that I couldn't possibly list them all, but I think I would have to say the best memories come from my friends/classmates from the class of 1986. I do also have two disappointments, one that I didn't get to graduate from SBA, and second that I didn't have the chance to send my own daughter to such a great school.
Sr amy Westbrook February 05, 2012 at 12:56 AM
What a wonderful article about such a special place filled with good memories and deep learning. As the newest member of the Benedictine Sisters, I have visited the beautiful SBA building many times and can still hear the laughter and busy chatter of excited high school girls! I look forward to meeting some of you in the Open House coming soon.
Carolyn Faber Jahn February 05, 2012 at 05:58 PM
I loved my time at 4530 Perrysville Avenue. I received an excellent education from caring teachers and I cherish the friendships I made at the academy and with the Benedictine Sisters.
Conrad February 06, 2012 at 01:39 PM
Actually...that was Bryan Adams. Summer of 69.
Annie Heid February 07, 2012 at 01:06 AM
See what happens when you get old!.......I was close.
Sister Judith Nero February 07, 2012 at 01:36 AM
For Students, Faculty or Staff, SBA offered a welcome, supportive environment, and challenged all to their best. I enjoyed the students of every class and home room-- Freshman Speech, English, Business, speech and debate preparations and competitions, and the basketball games. Blessings on all!!! Sister Judith Nero, OSB
Maria Petrocelly Silva February 13, 2012 at 12:01 AM
My sister graduated from St. Benies... I was the rebel and went to North Hills - but I danced on the tables for something for the seniors. They had a lua theme and I danced polynesean and made the year book. Julie was voted most photogenic and I know she has wonderful memories. I have wonderful memories of going there for weekend retreats and later visiting the nuns that taught at St. A's. My mother then went there for the senior activities. St. Benedicts has been a huge part of my whole life - I am sad to see this come to an end but thrilled that the sisters will have a new home.
Judy Mcholland-Paganini February 18, 2012 at 03:00 PM
Well said Val!!

Boards

More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something
See more »