Over the next two years, the Province of Italy and the International Society will undertake a project together to renovate the Villa Lante. The renovated Villa Lante will continue to provide a space for formation and expand its possibilities so that it can be an added support for the mission of the Society internationally.
The Villa Lante will be renovated for use as a Center for Religious and Lay Formation. The Center will be used for probation, allowing probanists to experience the historical and spiritual significance of the Villa like so many RSCJ have done in the past, and will also provide a space for renewal programs. The Center will provide hospitality and work spaces for groups connected to the Society, so that they will have the opportunity to walk in Madeleine Sophie’s footsteps and contemplate her journey. The renovated Villa will include an area for an RSCJ community who will support the working of the Center.
The renovations are being carried out by a group of talented architects and engineers, including architect Ciro Calabrese, who has worked with the Italian Province for more than 20 years and who understands the unique characteristics and history of the Villa. The renovation will be divided into two phases; Phase One includes the renovation of Villa Betania (the part of the Villa traditionally used for probation), the Casa Madonna (the central part of the property), and the Casa per Ferie. Phase Two, which will begin in 2021, will include the renovation of the chapel, the garden and park, and the Aula.
The idea behind the renovation was to organize the Villa around its various functions. There is an area for conferences, for probation and formation, for community, and for offices. The Villa Betania will be dedicated to the probanists and other groups as needed, and will feature bedrooms, living spaces, a kitchen, a dining room and probation chapel. There will be a dedicated space for the museum (currently located in the General Archives) that will showcase artefacts connected to the history of the Society. There will also be display areas for objects from different provinces, to highlight how our mission is lived today throughout the Society.
The Society is grateful to the Province of Italy, for their care of this property, their generosity in sharing this sacred space and in joining with the Society to undertake this renovation project. Our Italian sisters have welcomed so many RSCJ, just as Madeleine Sophie did during her lifetime, both as probanists and as sisters. We have witnessed them living the call from Chapter 2016 to be and act as One Body for many years as they cared for this important space for the sake of us all.
There has been a wonderful response to this renovation project from the Society following a letter from Sr. Barbara Dawson, Superior General to the Society in early February 2020. Many sisters from all over the Society expressed their joy that the beautiful and historic building is being restored so that it can continue to be used for the mission. They were also thankful to the sisters from the Province of Italy for their care and protection of the Villa Lante on behalf of us all.
This renovation represents a new beginning for one of the Society’s most historically significant buildings, one that has been part of the Society since 1837. For nearly two centuries, it has been a place where the Sacred Heart sisters have prayed, learned and taught. It is where the sisters unite in their probation, knowing they are retracing Madeleine Sophie’s footsteps, and where many have professed their final vows. The newly renovated Villa Lante will respect this history, while making the building safer, more comfortable, and more beautiful for all those who live and work there, as well as for those who are simply passing through.