Real Estate

Catholic congregation seeks charity to buy its eight-acre retreat on Lake Simcoe

Sisters of St. Joseph Photo Courtesy of Colliers International

Tucked into Invermara Bay on the north end of Lake Simcoe is a tranquil waterfront retreat replete with modest cottages, hedge-lined paths, and well-manicured gardens. Surrounding the property is a line of trees, maintaining the retreat’s privacy from the expanding suburbs of nearby Orillia. Aside from its picturesque location, the property has a long and storied history.

Since 1941, the retreat has been owned by the Sisters of St. Joseph—a Catholic congregation committed to providing social services and healthcare to those in need. But after 82 years, the religious charity has decided to put the property up for sale.

Sisters of St. Joseph
Photo courtesy of Colliers International

“After careful discernment, prayer, and reflection, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Toronto has made the decision to divest its retreat and vacation property located in Orillia,” said Vickie McNally, a spokesperson for the charity, in an email. “This decision was made with utmost deliberation and respect for the property and its rich natural surroundings,”

The property has acted as an all-season retreat for the congregation to host annual meetings, welcome esteemed guests, and provide a sanctuary for prayer and reflection. As part of the sale, the property comes with 8.35 acres of land fronted by over 400 metres of pristine waterfront. On the property are four cottages that can house a total of 33 people, a cafeteria, a pool, a pool shed, a garage, plus a parking lot with space for 31 vehicles.

Sisters of St. Joseph
Photo Courtesy of Colliers International

While this sounds like a developer’s dream—especially since it’s only a 90-minute drive north of Toronto—the property is zoned as institutional and the Sisters of St. Joseph has made it clear that it intends to sell to another charity, non-profit organization, or group or individual that will maintain the property’s legacy and social purpose.

“The Sisters’ commitment to preserving [the property’s] legacy and ensuring its harmonious future remains resolute and they endeavor to identify a discerning buyer who shares their deep appreciation for the property’s natural peace and tranquility,” McNally said.

The congregation will weigh offers based on the buyer’s profile and intentions rather than by how much money is on the table.

Sisters of St. Joseph
Photo Courtesy of Colliers International

As an organization, the Sisters of St. Joseph’s mission is to nurture community and serve those in need, something it’s been doing for nearly four centuries. The group was founded by six women and a Jesuit Priest in Le Puy-en-Velay, France in 1650. Since then, it’s set up congregations around the world.

One of those congregations is in Toronto, and its founding pre-dated Canadian Confederation. In 1851, Sister Delphine Fontbonne and three other sisters arrived in the city with the goal of caring for the poor and orphaned, establishing the group’s first Canadian congregation.

While the Orillia property hasn’t been around for that long, it has been a treasured location for the Sisters of St. Joseph, making it difficult to part with. The property, which is being sold through Colliers International, may not be on the market long, though, as it’s already garnered some attention. “We have had great success representing similar properties in the area and we are extremely encouraged by the number of charities and non-profit organizations who have expressed an interest in the property thus far,” said Peter Davies, senior vice president and sales representative at Colliers, in an email.

Sisters of St. Joseph
Photo Courtesy of Colliers International

As part of the sale, The Sisters of St. Joseph has requested one last summer at the property, holding onto it until the end of fall 2024.

“Throughout the coming year,” McNally said, “the Sisters will continue to enjoy and utilize the property, nurturing their relationship with it and the community it resides in.”

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