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 November 19, 1999

Blessed openings mark big weekend

The Eye

Lots of eyes, including this one, were on the openings of two new buildings in Northern Colorado last weekend.

One has been taking shape out of the sight of passing traffic on U.S. Highway 287 in Virginia Dale — the approximate half-way point between Fort Collins and Laramie.

The 21 nuns of the Abbey of St. Walburga on Nov. 13 hosted throngs of seldom-seen visitors, including Catholic parishioners from throughout the region, when they opened the doors of their $5.2 million abbey nestled in a valley ringed by granite loaves and spires just west of the highway.

“Normally, we avoid crowds,” understated Sister Hildegard, the self-described “spokesnun” for the monastic community of Benedictine sisters. “But it’s important for us to open up to the community on this occasion.”

A steady flow of visitors snaked through the three floors of the new abbey, with its gleaming, copper-clad roof and dome, guided by wall signs and arrows that kept them on a prescribed route.

Outside, the crowd filtered out into the sun-drenched meadows where the sisters graze their cattle and llamas and harvest hay.

Two days before the opening, last spring’s calves had been separated from cows for shipment to feed lots. Ranching is new to the sisters of St. Walburga, who 2 1/2 years ago left their abbey east of Boulder for greener, and higher, pastures.

“We had what we called the åmother’s march’ yesterday,” Sister Maria Walburga, the top hand on the cow-calf ranch, said with a sigh. “The cows were parading along the fence line, bawling, looking for their calves. When nuns ranch, we have our hearts broken over and over again.”

Once the sisters settle in, they’ll be back in the retreat business — a primary income source that’s been missing since the move from Boulder. Retreat guests can find temporary housing in the modular buildings that the sisters occupied while their new abbey was under construction.

Boulder architect Barrett Steele, who Sister Maria Walburga described as a “lapsed Catholic,” held court during the open house in a roomful of drawings and models, describing the design and construction process for visitors.

“I think this project was an intensely spiritual experience for him,” Sister Maria said.

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Meanwhile, 35 miles to the south, the Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual High-End Listings, known by its sign as The Group Inc. Real Estate of Fort Collins, opened to the public Nov. 12.

Blessings abounded at a ribbon-cutting, including one from two Arapahoe-Shoshoni tribal leaders brought in from Wyoming’s Wind River reservation for the ceremony.

“My people used to live here at one time,” tribal elder Edward Willow said as he gazed over the crush of visitors, mostly the 147 Group brokers, those from other Fort Collins real estate companies, mortgage lenders, bankers and builders.

“Things are a little different on the reservation,” he said before bestowing a Shoshoni blessing on the land on which the $1.7 million office complex sits.

Also on hand were Ben Preston, a lifelong Harmony resident whose family still owns the original Preston Farm buildings just east of the new Group offices. Group chairman Larry Kendall presented Preston and other members of his family with a framed collection of photos depicting the history of Harmony and the Preston homestead.

“So many people share in this,” Kendall said. “The Prestons are the key players in the building of the Harmony area.”

Inside the swank new headquarters, visitors got a chance to view models of the next stage of Harmony Road development — plans that feature the preservation of the historic Preston home and farmstead.

The Eye

Lots of eyes, including this one, were on the openings of two new buildings in Northern Colorado last weekend.

One has been taking shape out of the sight of passing traffic on U.S. Highway 287 in Virginia Dale — the approximate half-way point between Fort Collins and Laramie.

The 21 nuns of the Abbey of St. Walburga on Nov. 13 hosted throngs of seldom-seen visitors, including Catholic parishioners from throughout the region, when they opened the doors of their $5.2 million abbey nestled in a valley ringed by granite loaves and spires just west of the highway.

“Normally, we avoid crowds,” understated…

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