History of Belcourt Center to 2017
In 1882, the Sisters of the Congregation of Notre Dame opened on the site of Belcourt Center a Convent Boarding and Day School known as St. Augustine’s Convent. Here for more than eighty years, the girls and boys of this area and far beyond were educated in mind, body, and spirit with the thoroughness characteristic of the daughters of St. Marguerite Bourgeoys.
In 1932, the original convent was destroyed by fire, but a new one of the same design was immediately built and the Sisters continued their dedicated service here until modern school consolidation and bus transportation made boarding schools unnecessary or unpopular.
After several transfers of ownership, the convent building was purchased in 1977 by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Charlottetown for a Retreat House and Renewal Center. From 1981 to 2004 it was administered by the Sisters of St. Martha of Charlottetown who resided at Belcourt Center and assisted in various programs. From 2004 to 2013 Mrs. Bernice Doucette (affectionately dubbed Sister Bernice) has administered Belcourt Center and continued the welcoming warm homelike atmosphere that was established by Sister Bernice Cullen, Sister Rose Setter and the many other Marthas that lived and served at Belcourt.
The name Belcourt Center was chosen to honor the memory of Rev. Antoine— Georges Belcourt, pastor of Rustico from 1859 to 1869. Father Belcourt was a zealous and innovative priest whose achievements here and elsewhere have written a remarkable page in the history of the Church in America.
In Rustico, he established the Farmers’ Bank, the forerunner of the Credit Union in North America, set up a parish library, started a High School in his house and secured books from France autographed by Louis Napoleon III, organized an adult study club, a choir and a band. He also put together the first horseless [steam] carriage in Canada. Fr. Belcourt subsequently was involved in the first car accident on PEI when his steam carriage did not respond to the horse command “Whoa” during the first demonstration drive at a parish picnic. Fortunately no lasting damage was done to cleric or onlookers.
The final retreat at The Belcourt Centre was the weekend of March 31 to April 2, 2017.