At a time when frontline medical staff are under unimaginable stress, a former monastery in Québec, Canada boasts a cultural wellness retreat and spa which is offering them much-needed time out.
“Le Monastère des Augustines opened to the public five years ago and is driven by a social purpose to give back by offering respite to caregivers and healthcare professionals,” explains executive director Isabelle Duchesneau.
Le Monastère occupies the former Hôtel-Dieu de Québec monastery (1695-1755), one of North America’s first hospitals, and was founded by Augustinian sisters who devoted their lives to helping others. It features a five-treatment-room spa, which Duchesneau describes as a complete haven, where visitors are offered a plethora of massages, facials, holistic health consultations, daily mindful activities and private meditation and movement sessions.
In 2019, more than 100 healthcare workers and 275 health science students participated in various wellbeing activities and retreats at Le Monastère, while over 200 caregivers took advantage of a discounted stay that offered respite and fostered relaxation.
During June and July 2020, the Augustinian sisters – whose average age is over 80 – raised CA$140,000 (US$106,540, €90,126, £81,404) in public donations after hosting a 20-day compassion walk dedicated to helping fund more healthcare workers’ visits.
“The work accomplished by medical workers during this pandemic is unprecedented, so the sisters felt it was their duty to perpetuate these gestures of mutual aid,” says Duchesneau.
The money raised has enabled Le Monastère to create a discounted Solidarity Package costing CA$99 per person per night (US$75, €64, £58), with an actual value of CA$250 (US$190, €161, £145), to welcome more caregivers and healthcare workers.
Le Monastère, which is a member of Healing Hotels of the World, also offers one-day workshops and personalised two- to seven-day retreats focusing on a host of topics ranging from resilience, femininity and meditation, to mindfulness and compassion.
“We’re dedicated to promoting a healthy lifestyle, providing personalised guidance, tools and advice to help our guests achieve balance with the four pillars of holistic health – the body, mind, emotions and spirituality,” says Duchesneau.
In her opinion, wellness has an essential role to play in the COVID-19 era: “because mental wellness and physical wellness are key to maintaining our health especially in times of great stress”.
She adds: “Being able to serve caretakers who care for others is critically important and wellness destinations, like Le Monastère, have a responsibility to educate and share what we know to help as many people as possible find their path to healing and wellbeing."