Hamilton

Remains of 300 nuns to be exhumed and moved in Hamilton

It's important for the living nuns that the remains, and eventually theirs, will be cared for long into the future

Living nuns decided it's the best way to ensure the graves will be properly maintained

Statues, along with the remains of 300 nuns, will be moved from the Notre Dame Convent to the Gate of Heaven Cemetery. (Submitted by the School Sisters of Notre Dame)

The sisters at the Notre Dame convent in Waterdown are thinking about their future. 

The elderly, retired and semi-retired nuns have decided to take the remains of about 300 nuns in the cemetery on the convent's grounds, and move them to a nearby Catholic cemetery called Gate of Heaven.

It wasn't an easy decision, says Sister Charmaine Krohe, the leader of the School Sisters of Notre Dame's Atlantic-Midwest Province. 

"It was done only after a great deal of prayer, dialogue and reflection," Krohe says.

The convent and the property it's on are owned by the School Sister of Notre Dame, but it has a prospective buyer — an international school for girls, according to a press release.

The school has agreed that the nuns can remain on the property after they buy it, Krohe says, but the nuns have decided to move the graves.

"It is for the purpose of making sure that we preserve the sacredness and holiness of our sisters who have gone before us, and also those who will soon be able to arrive at that cemetery," Krohe explained in regards to why the nuns decided to move the cemetery.

Sister Charmaine Krohe is the leader of the School Sisters of Notre Dame's Atlantic Mid-West Province. (Submitted by the School Sisters of Notre Dame)

Krohe says that in addition to the remains being moved, statues in the convent cemetery will also be relocated to Gate of Heaven. She says that the nuns were able to pick out the place the graves will be moved to, and design the set-up of the new location in the cemetery. 

Krohe says that the nuns were concerned about the long-term care of the cemetery. "This is a very sacred and holy place for us, and we want to make sure that in the future, after we sell the facility, that nothing happens to it that it will be forgotten."

The sisters at the convent are all aging, and nobody else is taking their place, says Krohe, adding the same trend is being seen at convents across North America.

"Many congregations ... are facing this same reality of diminishing and not many new members coming, and having large facilities that are not appropriate for our sisters, and also are costly," says Krohe.

But, she says, the ultimate reason the School Sisters of Notre Dame are thinking about downsizing their properties is because they want to focus their energy on ministry, rather than maintain grounds and convents that are too big for the number of nuns who run them.

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