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The newly renovated northeast corner of St. Norbert Abbey serves as the building’s main entrance and provides easy access to the Norbertine Center for Spirituality.

Norbertine Now/All Are Welcome in This Place

St. Norbert Abbey’s new northeast entrance is now officially open to the De Pere community and beyond. The renovated northeast corner of the abbey, under construction for about a year, now serves as the building’s main entrance and provides easy access to the Norbertine Center for Spirituality (NCS) while also reinforcing an important tenet of the mission of the Norbertine order: radical hospitality.

The remodel strengthens the order’s capacity to be inclusive and welcoming to churchgoers and visitors, no matter their level of ability or mobility. The reimagined space includes an elevator, a reception hall with two new conference rooms, the Cloister Art Gallery, the abbey’s main office and the spirituality center.

The center currently sees more than 10,000 visitors and hosts hundreds of events each year, but those numbers are anticipated to continually increase as they offer more workshops, multi-day retreats, conferences and other popular programs.

Tony Pichler M.T.S. ’94, director of the NCS, says: “The largest spaces we had were the Killeen Room and the Abbey Chapter Room. The Killeen Room seats approximately 50 people comfortably yet some of our programs have drawn over 100 people. The new space, with two new large conference rooms that each hold over 100 people, adds to the programming options that we have. We will no longer need to limit what we currently offer.”

The new conference rooms can seat 180 and 150 people and the suite also includes a small kitchen and accessible bathrooms. The hope is to invite larger groups within the parish, from the diocese and from the community to use the space. The Norbertines also plan to hold community receptions, celebrations and other special events that previously were not feasible.

Pichler is pleased to see that the abbey and the center are becoming all-inclusive with these additions. “It was so difficult watching people who have mobility issues [walking] up the steps of the old [center] entrance,” he says. “The elevator goes to all floors and opens up the possibilities for inclusivity when welcoming people here.”

“There is such a great collaboration between the college, the abbey and the center. With this space, groups from [St. Norbert College] that have come here for years, students, faculty, [the] board of trustees, will be able to enjoy a new, fresh place to gather as they connect to the hospitality and communio of the Norbertines.”

When visiting the abbey, guests can find the church by walking through the main entrance and then the chapter room. The church’s front entrance, which faces the cemetery, will be open at Mass times throughout the year.

The need for renovations on the Webster Avenue side of the building has been a long time coming, with talk of adding an elevator starting in the mid-2000s. After some thorough planning and a generous gift from an anonymous donor, construction kicked off last summer.

Since the abbey was originally built in 1959 as a home for members and seminarians of the order, there was much to be done to ensure the new facilities met the growing needs of everyone in the community, from laypeople to administrative staff to the Norbertine priests who are its permanent residents.

Oct. 31, 2018