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Catholic university invites students who are single mothers to live with retired religious sisters


Plunkett Raysich Architects, LLP

John Burger - published on 01/28/20 - updated on 01/28/20

Mount Mary University will bring aging religious back to campus they served, and give young women a chance to complete their degree.

Undergraduate students who are single mothers will be living alongside retired persons, both lay and religious, in a proposed new residential community at Mount Mary University in Milwaukee.

In a community to be built in the coming year, single mothers and their children, Sisters of the School Sisters of Notre Dame, and Milwaukee-area senior citizens will live in private residences on campus and be able to share their lives and experiences with one another.

Milwaukee Catholic Home, which has been caring for the sisters in another facility, will operate and manage the new senior living community. It is to consist of 52 private residences designed to accommodate the needs of the retired Sisters. Ninety independent living residences for seniors will have full access to the new communities’ amenities including supportive living services as their individual health needs change. And 24 small apartments for Mount Mary University undergraduate single mothers and their children will be included in the new development. There will also be early childhood development or child day care for up to 100 children and toddlers.

The buildings will be fully interconnected by a Town Center that incorporates numerous spaces to bring people together in friendly conversation, dining, prayer, learning and socialization. The social gathering lounges and indoor/outdoor spaces will take advantage of the natural wooded environment.

According to WUWM, Milwaukee’s NPR affiliate, the plan will bring members of the School Sisters of Notre Dame back to the university their order founded over 100 years ago and support student parents, who often struggle to graduate from college.

Single mothers “face a lot of obstacles, including the cost of an education, transportation, child care, and simply having the resources to get all of those needs met,” said Mount Mary President Christine Pharr. “So this seemed like a perfect way to bring the sisters together with a demographic of students in the Milwaukee area that could benefit tremendously from having the support and resources a program like this could offer.”

Pharr told WUWM that Mount Mary doesn’t currently offer support services like on-campus child care for student parents, who make up between 10% and 20% of the student population. The university president “says having housing, child care and other resources could incentivize more single mothers living in the Milwaukee area to earn a college degree. That would be good for the students but would also help Mount Mary in a time of declining college enrollment statewide,” the radio station reported.

“We all know that right now the number of high school students graduating is declining in the Midwest, and Wisconsin is no exception to that,” Pharr said. “And so all of us are trying to think about, how can we continue to serve that population, but also reinvent ourselves to serve different demographics?”

Groundbreaking is anticipated in July of 2020. Projected costs for the development are about $40 million, with funding coming from the three partners in the venture—Milwaukee Catholic Home, Mount Mary University and the School Sisters of Notre Dame, as well as through fundraising and tax-exempt bond financing. The partners hope to open the facility in September of 2021.

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