MONROE — The Visitation, a prayer center operated by the IHM Sisters (Immaculate Heart of Mary) for more than 40 years, will close Sunday.
The barn originally housed the dairy cows of the sisters' St. Mary Farm. It then served as a horse barn for students of St. Mary Academy and Hall of the Divine Child, and became a chapel in the late 1960s. But since 1970 it has been a place of prayer and contemplation in a leafy setting on Stewart Road.
In 1972, a four-bedroom retreat house was added to provide accommodation for longer periods of prayer, and two hermitage cabins in the nearby woods opened in 1974.
Molly Hunt, spokesman for the sisters, cited a lack of resources for the closing. "We don't have the finances or the staff to keep it open," she said.
Sister Carol Quigley, a member of the IHM leadership council, said the decision to close was made two years ago. "It's bittersweet, I would say. People knew we couldn't afford to sustain it," and no future use for the barn has been decided on, she said.
Sister Carol said the sisters' River House at 805 W. Elm St. has become a spirituality center where many of the workshops, liturgies, and other activities held at the Visitation are conducted. The sisters began moving programs and services to the River House in 2009 in anticipation of the closure. The retreat house and hermitage cabins were closed last year.
The "Visitation" in the barn's name is a reference to the Biblical visit made by the pregnant virgin Mary to her aged cousin, Elizabeth, who was herself miraculously pregnant with John the Baptist.
In the weeks leading to its closing, the barn is being celebrated with a series of events.
"Visitation: Telling the Story — A Visual Display" will be in the chapel through Sunday. The chapel is open Wednesday 2 to 4 p.m. and Thursday 6 to 8 p.m. Special access can be arranged by calling the River House at 734-240-5494.
On Wednesday, a final Eucharistic liturgy will be held at 7 p.m. in the chapel to celebrate the feast of the Visitation.
Today is the last day to reserve a place by calling the River House or emailing email@example.com. At 3:30 p.m. Sunday, a gathering of gratitude and farewell will be held. Reservations are required by Wednesday.
Sister Carol said people understand that the loss of the barn will not affect the sisters' spiritual mission. "We have not had a lot of angst. People have been very mature in their responses, recognizing the limits we're facing," she said.