Bethlehem Centre’s Story
On June 25, 2014, Friends of Bethlehem Centre Society was officially established as a registered society under the Society Act of B.C. As in 2002 when the Benedictines purchased the Centre from the Diocese of Victoria, the goal of the new society was to assure that the Bethlehem Centre continue to be present to the spiritual needs of persons on Vancouver Island and beyond.
At the time of incorporation the hope of the new society was to purchase Bethlehem Centre by involving four churches as investors. The Anglican Diocese was the first (and only) of the four to commit. Members of the Board soon realized that they could not buy the Centre, but that they were, in fact, a catalyst searching for potential buyers.
In April of 2015 the Anglican Diocese agreed to invest and a private investor from Toronto joined. An urgent email message went out to all 450 members of the Friends Society and the following day, two families agreed to invest. The four investors formed the Bethlehem Investors Group (B.I.G.), letters of commitment were obtained, and a purchase agreement was drawn up and signed by the new joint venture. On July 15, 2015, Friends of Bethlehem Retreat Centre Society commenced operation of the Centre with Lucia Gamroth as Interim Director. And on July 31, 2015, the purchase of Bethlehem Centre was completed.
The foundation for what exists today as the Bethlehem Centre rests on 28 years of commitment of the Benedictines Nanaimo to the people of Vancouver Island. The House of Bread Monastery was founded in 1974 when Bishop Remi DeRoo asked the Benedictine Sisters to return to Vancouver Island. Jean Ann Berning and Augusta Raabe, Benedictines from Mt. Angel, Oregon responded to his request and established a Benedictine presence in the community of Nanaimo. Within the first months, their home became a gathering place for scripture discussions and spiritual journeying.
Thirteen years later, as an extension of the established spiritual traditions of those early years, the Bethlehem Centre was founded under the leadership of Sr. Jill Aigner. With the help of individuals and groups of many faiths, and other organizations, the Benedictines purchased the Centre from the Diocese in 2002 so that the Bethlehem Centre could continue to address the spiritual needs of persons on Vancouver Island and beyond.