The former St. Joseph’s School converted to the St. Joseph’s Art Studios in 2019. (File photo by Don Bodger)

The former St. Joseph’s School converted to the St. Joseph’s Art Studios in 2019. (File photo by Don Bodger)

Former Chemainus St. Joseph’s School site sold to addictions recovery group

Diocese stresses the importance of a community outreach option in its decision

The long-rumoured and much-anticipated sale of the former St. Joseph’s School in Chemainus has become a reality.

It has been sold to a registered charity that plans to establish a residential therapeutic program on site designed to help those in recovery from alcohol and drug addictions through education in social skills, vocational training and connection with the community.

The sale was announced over the weekend by the Diocese of Victoria and the Island Catholic Schools board of directors, with the acceptance of a proposal from the Cowichan Valley Intentional Recovery Community Society.

St. Joseph’s Elementary Catholic School served the community from 1964 to 2018 before closing due to an insurmountable debt. The site was repurposed with the grand opening of the St. Joseph’s Art Studios in May of 2019, with artists renting spaces from Island Catholic Schools to showcase their art, display items for sale and offer classes to the public. The gym also houses South Island Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

Related story: Art studios remain with no sale of former St. Joseph’s School property

While the offer has been accepted from CVIRCS for the building, “they have conditions and the closing date will not be for a long time,” said Keefer Pollard, a former principal at St. Joseph’s and also the district principal of Island Catholic Schools.

Since November of 2019, the Diocese of Victoria has been searching for a new vision for the property that would retain a place of worship for the Catholic community with the St. Joseph’s Church adjacent to the former school, satisfy an $850,000 debt, and also provide community outreach over and above monetary gain. The offer by the CVIRCS satisfied all those objectives.

“The Cowichan Valley Intentional Recovery Community Society program will be a lifeboat for people ship-wrecked on the stormy sea of addictions,” noted the Most Reverend Gary Gordon, Bishop of the Diocese of Victoria, in a press release.

As discussions progressed, misinformation spread about the site and led to concerns about a change in the neighbourhood dynamics.

The diocese stressed the program is not a homeless shelter, a detox facility or safe injection site, a drop-in centre, food bank or soup kitchen and is not accepting those with complex mental health issues.

“It is helpful to acknowledge that the opposite of addiction is not just sobriety, but connection,” pointed out Bernie Willock, chair of the CVIRCS. “True recovery involves restoring our full participation in a flourishing community.”

The property will be subdivided to keep the church as an active place of worship and the school building will house a long-term residential program for applicants already in recovery. The program will operate like a household with firm rules, including no drugs or alcohol, no violence or threats of violence, participation in community programs seven days a week and no one leaving the premises without permission and accompaniment of an approved leader.

Once a proposal was developed, the diocese actively sought input from All Saints parishioners that include St. Joseph’s Church in Chemainus and St. Mary’s Church in Ladysmith to ensure the Catholic community was engaged in the decision-making process. Feedback revealed significant support from both congregations.

“Parishioners are pleased to see that the school will continue, albeit a different type of school, but one that society really needs,” noted Ellen Lavender, chair of All Saints Parish Council.

“Our attitude of concern for people from the street who want to improve their lives, and to provide a place for them, for me, has eternal value,” added Rev. Mel Bayron, Pastor of All Saints Parish.

The CVIRCS is ready to engage with its new neighbours within the North Cowichan community to share its vision, answer questions and welcome their support.

Related story: New gallery space opens at St. Joseph’s Art Studios in Chemainus

Pollard added the artists at the studio have been contacted about what the deal means for them.

“They can reasonably assume they can be there for another year,” he said. “As the timeline proceeds, we’ll keep them up to date.”

The process to subdivide usually takes considerable time and Pollard expects it might even take longer amid the pandemic.

addictionsArts and cultureSchools

 

Skye Skagfeld is one of the artists who’s been with the St. Joseph’s Art Studios from the beginning. (File photo by Don Bodger)

Skye Skagfeld is one of the artists who’s been with the St. Joseph’s Art Studios from the beginning. (File photo by Don Bodger)

Just Posted

(PQB News file photo)
Fireworks report highlights enforcement challenges for Regional District of Nanaimo

Director: ‘I just think it’s wasting everybody’s time’

Co-creatorsAdrianna Hatton and Malcolm McKenzie stand next to the little free library revealed Sunday at 9710 First St. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Literary crowd helps opens little free library in Sidney

Located at 9710 First St., the book sharing box features original art and reclaimed wood

Deep Cove Elementary School principal Shelley Hardcastle (right) and vice-principal Mary Kaercher help to restock Reay Creek with fish – in this case, coho fry – after a recent bleach spill killed hundreds of fish. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
North Saanich’s Deep Cove Elementary School helps to restock Sidney’s Reay Creek

Restocking followed bleach spill that killed hundreds of fish in creek

A new report pegs the annual cost of hiring a third party to monitor use of pickleball courts in North Saanich at $12,000. (Black Press Media file photo).
North Saanich could end up hiring third party to monitor pickleball courts

Other options up for consideration include use of cameras and timed locks

The barred owl is the most likely to be spotted in the south Island. (Ann Nightingale photo)
Barred owls dominate Greater Victoria owl-scape

Western screech owl population decimated, partly due to barred owls

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

“They will never be forgotten, every child matters,” says Sioux Valley Chief Jennifer Bone in a video statement June 1. (Screen grab)
104 ‘potential graves’ detected at site of former residential school in Manitoba

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation working to identify, repatriate students buried near former Brandon residential school

The Queen Victoria statue at the B.C. legislature was splattered with what looks like red paint on Friday. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)
Queen Victoria statue at B.C. legislature vandalized Friday

Statue splattered with red paint by old growth forest proponents

Most Read