The new out of the old: Concordia christens rebirth of Grey Nuns building

Former convent transformed into state-of-the-art residence and study space

Concordia University’s newest student residence, meant to provide housing to almost 600 students and augment study space to over 300 more, officially opened to celebration on Monday at the former Grey Nuns convent.

The ceremony took place in the former Chapelle de l’Invention-de-la-Sainte-Croix, which has been transformed into the Reading Room. Attendees of the event included the Grey Nuns congregation and their Congregational Leader Sister Jacqueline St-Yves, Montreal City Councillor and Borough Mayor for Côte-des-Neiges-Notre-Dame-de-Grace Russell Copeman, and Hélène David, the Quebec Minister of Culture and Communications and Minister Responsible for the Protection and Promotion of the French Language.

Photo by Nathalie Laflamme

“Concordia is now offering to its students a reading room that is an impressive place of beauty, calm and serenity,” said Dr. Guylaine Beaudry, a librarian at Concordia University. “What fills me with emotion is the blend of the traditionally religious with a space devoted to study and research.”

Beaudry continued to describe the Reading Room as the “only place for students to study in silence” on campus. “[The students] talk to us, using Facebook, and on Instagram and Twitter to tell us how this reading room inspires them to study, how it makes them proud to be Concordians.”

“Allow me to express how happy we are that this house will continue its mission of welcome,” said St-Yves. “I can tell you [that when we returned], it was an unforgettable moment. Where the past, the present, and – most importantly – the future, came together.”

“This was particularly challenging project, and the turning [of] a … protected convent into a 600-bed student residence and this magnificent study space has been extremely well executed,” said Copeman.

The event also included a performance by Concordia’s Theatre department. Students scattered around the Reading Room read aloud excerpts from Marguerite d’Youville (founder of the Grey Nuns) in French, Shakespearean English, a statement of solidarity in Cree, and Dante’s Divine Comedy in Italian.

“When [the performance] became a little bit cacophonous, it sounded a little bit like a meeting of the City Council of Montreal,” joked Copeman.

The building had been recognized as a historic building by the Government of Quebec, who collaborated with Concordia University and the Grey Nuns on the heritage preservation of the premises.

The acquisition of the Grey Nuns Residence makes it Concordia University’s oldest building. Certain areas, such as the crypt inside the building, will remain under the custodianship of the Grey Nuns.

In Spring 2015 an event will be held to commemorate the recognition of its historic status by the federal government.

Concordia University has a long legacy of religious collaborations. Both Loyola College and Sir George Williams University were originally founded by religious groups. The name “Concordia” is Latin for “harmony,” representing the merger of the two institutions.

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