.- The Canadian Jesuits lost their decade-long battle with Wal-Mart last month when a municipal board ruled that the U.S.-based department store chain could build a megastore next to a well-known Jesuit retreat centre.
The Ontario Municipal Board rejected the Jesuit arguments that the spiritual values invested in their historic farmland and retreat centre would be compromised by the hustle and bustle that a Wal-Mart would bring to the neighborhood, reported the Catholic Register.
The board ruled that Wal-Mart is free to build a new shopping centre next to the Jesuits’ 240 hectares of farmland, north of Guelph. The store would also be between Catholic and Protestant cemeteries. Wal-Mart expects the 12,000-square-foot store to open in 2006.
The board decided that religious values could not be part of the urban planning process, reported the Toronto diocesan newspaper.
The Jesuits believe the increased noise and traffic in the neighborhood will make spiritual direction, liturgies and meditation difficult, but they have no intention of leaving their property.
“The Jesuits are committed to Guelph. We’ve been here a long time and we’re committed to staying,” said Fr. Jim Profit, SJ, superior of the local community.
The Jesuits have been living on the farm since 1913. It once included the Canadian Jesuit novitiate. It is now a world-renowned retreat house, with a two-hectare organic vegetable garden, 100 cattle. It also includes Orchard Park, which was once Ignatius College, but is now rented out as commercial space.
The Residents for Sustainable Development, which had opposed Wal-Mart on environmental grounds, has not yet decided whether it would test the board’s decision in court.