The convent was opened in 1939, and for decades the Sisters of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary taught the residents of the community 120 kms south of Swift Current. The main part of the building was cloistered and the rest was the local high school. After a new public school was built in the 1960's the remaining sisters sold the building and it was used as a care home before it was abandoned in 1978. A week before it was scheduled for demolition in 1996 it was rescued by Robert Ducan and his son Adam who chanced upon the building during a summer vacation. They restored it and turned it into a bed-and-breakfast a year later.
A tiny chapel remains on the second floor along with a confessional booth. The 10 rooms are spacious and although not ostentatious in any way they are comfortable with large beds and armchairs. Jana Cornoc is the manager of the Convent Inn, as well as the cook, maid and, in a pinch, the bellman as well. She said the inn is mostly full from when it opens in early May until the end of October.
Cornoc said she doesn’t find anything unusual about spending all of her waking hours at a former convent, but some guests don’t agree. “Well, we have had a few incidents of people who think they felt a spiritual presence,” she said. “One lady had to change her room because she said the nuns were chit-chatting so much she couldn’t sleep. She was a psychic medium so she was really, really telling me you need to move me from that room because they’re chatting too much,” Cornoc added with a laugh.
There are signs of the former occupants everywhere. A large room on the main floor that now serves as a breakfast area and an entertainment room on the second floor still have a wall full of blackboards which contain everything from Bible verses to words of advice. The Convent Inn is for sale, but its owners will keep it open until a new buyer is found.
Val Marie, which now has a population of about 130 was part of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 and was considered to be in the United States. But in the 1880's the British North American Boundary Commission marked the border between the United States and Canada and Val Marie was placed in Canada.
Some guests are looking for peace and quiet while others are curious to see what it would be like to stay in a convent and many use it as a stopover on their way to Grasslands National Park.