MARYLHURST - The Holy Names Sisters broke ground June 13 on a new retirement community to be nestled not far from a long-established convent here.

While convent and Marylhurst University bells rang, more than 600 future residents, community leaders, neighbors, sisters and their families joined in a celebration. It marked the culmination of years of hard work and planning by the religious community.

The groundbreaking and blessing represent the beginning of site work and the start of major building construction and convent renovation. Mary's Woods at Marylhurst, as the project is called, is a continuing care retirement community to open on the sisters' land in early 2001.

The project grows out of the sisters' desire to assist their own aging members and those aging in the surrounding community. They say that developing portions of their land for a retirement community will carry on their commitment to service and mission while remaining on land they see as sacred.

'Mary's Woods is an ever-widening circle of those men and women here today, joining with the sisters to pursue a dream and vision,' said Sister Eileen Brown, who guided the project. 'The sisters have always asked the question, What is the best use of our land? Today's groundbreaking event symbolizes our vision for this sacred land.'

Since the city of Lake Oswego gave approval for land use last October, a marketing staff has kept a list of people interested in living there. Consultants say the response has been strong, outpacing the interest in similar projects throughout the country.

'Ring in the New' was the theme of the groundbreaking. That was furthered by the Westminster Handbell Choir, directed by David Greger.

The day began with a brunch on the lawn adjacent to the convent. A post-ceremony reception allowed guests to visit with the sisters, future residents, neighbors, consultants, architects, contractors and many other people who brought the project to reality.