The Holy Spirit Province of Canada is the name given to the entity which brings together the professed religious brothers, or friars, known as the Order of Friars Minor (OFM), or Franciscans, in Canada. There are approximately 55 active, and some 30 retired friars, who have dedicated themselves to proclaim Jesus Christ and to serve the Church, by ministering to all people. These men live in ten communities though out Canada and undertake various ministries from parish work, to caring for the poor, addiction counselling and support, to preaching in retreat houses. The Province has an administrative structure, with a Provincial Minister and Council, which oversees and decides on the functioning of the brotherhood and the care of its goods.
The Apostolic Trustees of the Friars Minor or Franciscans are lay men and women who form the Corporate Board of Directors of the Franciscan Province of the Holy Spirit, and are effectively the owners of the friars’ goods and the financial advisors to the Provincial Minister and his Council. The Trustees financial decisions take into account the desires and values made known to them by the Provincial Minister and Council of the Franciscans. Their mandate, by law, is to assist the Province in realizing its mission by assuring that there will be financial and legal solvency.
Those friars who are gainfully employed contribute to the Province’s goods, the spiritual services rendered by the friars earn some money, and those who are retired gain a government pension. Additionally, the friars are mendicants, “beggars”; they solicit the public for support so that their good works might continue. The Apostolic Trustees in turn are entrusted by the friars with all the Franciscans’ goods, and see to managing their finances and assets.
Until 2018 the Franciscans of Canada existed as two groups: the Franciscans of Western Canada (Province of Christ the King) and the Franciscans of Eastern Canada (St. Joseph Province). Historically, the two groups have existed as separate entities with two separate administrations.
Over the years the Franciscan Friars across the country have decreased in number and increased in age, and the two groups are no longer permitted to sustain their individual existences, or to function as independent entities. Over the last five years they have worked toward a unification of human and corporate resources.
On October 22, 2018, the two groups joined their human and corporate resources with a single administration through the creation of the new “Holy Spirit Province of Canada”, which consists of a Provincial Minister and his Council (also known as His Definitory). The Amalgamation also allows for the two groups’ corporate status and legal holdings to be joined together under the same Provincial Minister and Council, and Board of Trustees.
For more information about the Franciscans of Canada, please visit: http://www.franciscanfriars.ca/
Since the Province’s unification of western and eastern friars in October 2018, there has been an assessment of personnel, of care for retired and infirm friars, of vocational outreach, demographic planning, and a review of present and possibly future ministries. Along with the union, there has been a legal review of corporate structure, as well as a review of internal administrative and operational matters. Change will surely come as it has ever since the Franciscans first appeared in the thirteenth century.
The Mount St. Francis Retreat Centre and the adjoining lands in the County of Rocky View and the Town of Cochrane (~450 acres in total, identified in red below) are owned by the Franciscans of the Holy Spirit Province, and entrusted by them to their Apostolic Trustees.
Approximately 140 acres are located within the Town of Cochrane (The “South Lands”) and approximately 310 acres (including the Mount St. Francis Retreat Centre) are located within Rocky View County.
The lands were first purchased from Harry and Marie McConachie in 1949 by Les Syndics Apostoliques des Frères Mineurs ou Franciscains (that is, the Apostolic Trustees). Because the Federal Government did not recognize the Quebec Corporation of Apostolic Trustees in 1949, the property was held in trust for the Franciscans, for a short time, by Mr. Claire Côté, the Franciscan’s realtor and agent, and the Bishop of Calgary. In 1952, when Les Syndics Apostoliques were legally recognized in all of Canada, the land became the official property of the Franciscans.
The Holy Spirit Province of Canada recognizes the special nature of their lands and understands that many people use the lands today. The Franciscans have not prohibited access to the lands and have quietly overlooked respectful recreational use of the lands to date. One of the five guiding principles the Franciscans are following as they explore potential alternative uses for their lands is “Improving mobility and access” and are therefore seeking opportunities to legally permit public access to the South Lands.
The unification of the two Provinces (the east and the west) into one national body in November 2018 brought about the strategic review and visioning for the Franciscans across Canada. This includes an assessment of all its physical assets, including its land holdings across the country.
In consideration of current and long-term municipal, regional, and provincial planning initiatives proposed adjacent to the Franciscans’ land, and in consideration of the upcoming improvements to the Highway 1A/22 intersection, the Franciscans wish to ensure they can manage their own lands in the years and decades to come. They recognize the importance of planning for their own future rather than being planned for and planned around, and subsequently having to live with the consequences of these other plans which could negatively impact their South Lands.
An ASP will help the Franciscans further understand the capabilities of the South Lands and provide statutory certainty for the Holy Spirit Province of Canada if they wish to pursue alternative purposes for the land at some point in the future.
The application for an ASP is a precursor to repurposing the land, “at some time in the future”, meaning what the Franciscans may decide to do with the land is not an immediate concern to them. Although the ASP presents a plan, that plan need not be developed unless the Franciscans want to do so. Or, if the Franciscans sell the land, the plan could be implemented by developers, or re-designated differently by the new owners. The Franciscans, at the demand of the Corporation of Apostolic Trustees, have been instructed to assure themselves of their control over and use of the land before surrounding developments and structures impede their interests.
Pursuing an ASP is not all about money. The Franciscans are guided by their founder’s values and by the direction of the larger Order of Friars Minor which bring us to recognize the value of collaboration as well as the need for pragmatic considerations and compromise.
There is no intention to sell the lands and there are no developers involved in the Area Structure Plan process.
The three scenarios, originally requested by Town Administration and approved by Town Council on June 24, 2019, were brought to the friars at large for their deliberation in August 2019. Their recommendation was to proceed with the complete residential community concept, Scenario C. That recommendation from the friars was then brought to the Provincial Minister and Council of the Holy Spirit Province for further discussion. The Provincial Council members approved this in September 2019 and subsequently gave direction to its Ad Hoc Committee to proceed with an Area Structure Plan application.
Since the Area Structure Plan will be a legally binding agreement, if the process continues beyond the ASP to its ultimate end, the Franciscans decided that the highest and best use would permit them maximum development flexibility, the greatest opportunity to contribute to a community concept that will benefit as many as possible, and the possibility to reflect aspects of their spiritual values.
The Franciscans trust that the Town will find it rewarding to participate in an ASP process. This could allow for land reserve allocations to be dedicated to the Town, in perpetuity, which would permit their citizens to have public access, walking and cycling trails, gathering places, and the like. This collaboration would help the Town to realize its 2014 Master Open Space Plan, which already envisioned such a use for the Big Hill.
The Franciscans have learned about the existing traffic conditions on 4th Avenue through discussions with homeowners and education and recreation service. These stakeholders are frustrated with the single access from their communities and institutions onto Highway 1A and into downtown Cochrane. We have heard that adjacent communities would not support an application that would put additional traffic on 4 Avenue. Improving mobility is one of the Franciscans’ guiding principles throughout this process, and therefore they will be looking at creating and enhancing mobility improvements for the 4th Avenue communities throughout this process.
No. Retreat Road will remain closed to preserve peace and tranquility at the Retreat Centre and for neighbours along Retreat Road.
Yes. The Holy Spirit Province of Canada’s Ad Hoc Committee and the planning consultant (B&A Planning Group) have been in contact with Alberta Transportation as they are a key stakeholder in the ASP process. The Committee has requested regular updates from Alberta Transportation to ensure their planning is in alignment with any work taking place adjacent to the South Lands.
The Franciscans understand that there are several species that frequent these lands or call them home. As stewards of this land for over 70 years with environmental justice as a core tenant of the Franciscan mission, mitigation strategies will be implemented throughout the ASP project to ensure minimal impact on the wildlife and vegetation in the area.
The Franciscans recognize the tangible and intangible value of the Cochrane Big Hill. Honoring the site and the history and heritage of the lands is one of the guiding principles established by the Franciscans that the ASP will be expected to adhere to. As the Ad Hoc Committee and planning consultants begin to draft the ASP, the beauty, topography, and natural landscape of the hill will absolutely be respected. The Franciscans look forward to working with the community to ensure an ASP that benefits all.
Mount St. Francis Retreat Centre is a holy site and vitally important to the Franciscan order. The Franciscans have been an integral part of Cochrane for 70 years and hope to stay for many more.