Former Broadview Academy might become spiritual center

The former Broadview Academy high school in La Fox might become a worship center for followers of a Hindu spiritual leader.

The Mata Amritanandamayi Center is seeking a special-use permit from Kane County to turn the former boarding school into a place for worship, education and charitable activities, according to its application.

The property, at 41W571 Keslinger Road, has about 18 buildings on 102 acres, plus 40 acres of farmland. The center would use the school buildings, including an auditorium, dormitories and faculty residences.

The plan is to hold weekly services there, use the kitchen for preparing meals for worshippers and for charity, to have retreats several times a year, and perhaps establish Mata Amritanandamayi University, for people to learn her teachings.

Broadview Academy was run by the Seventh-day Adventist Church. It closed in May 2007 due to declining enrollment and financial difficulties, and has been on the market since. It has rented use of the buildings to other organizations, and use of its athletic fields to the Geneva High School football team for practices.

“I think it would be a good match,” said Kane County Board member Drew Frasz, who represents the area. Frasz said he and county development workers have met with center officials the last few years to discuss other sites, but the sites generally were too small.

“I think it would be a very low-impact project,” Frasz said, noting the buildings are set far back from Keslinger Road, and that the property is surrounded by a forest preserve.

Amritanandamayi, 58, of India, has been called “the hugging saint.” The core of her message is that people, no matter what their religious beliefs, are to “act with compassion and love for all our fellow beings,” according to a 2009 interview with The Associated Press. She demonstrates that especially through hugs; she began the practice because she wanted to console and comfort people. Now she is known for conducting hugging sessions that last as long as 20 hours. She also encourages meditation and devotion to charity.

The Kane County development and community services department is reviewing the application, which was received Feb. 14. It will then present it to the county’s Zoning Board of Appeals, which will make a recommendation to the county board. The land is zoned F, for farming. Religious centers are among the special uses that can be located in farming districts.

There are Mata Amritanandamayi Centers in the United States in Michigan, New Mexico, Maryland and California, and 50 others worldwide.

  Broadview Academy in La Fox closed in May 2007. The campus may be bought by the Mata Amritanandamayi Center. Rick West/
  Hundreds of people wait to be hugged by Mata Amritanandamayi, a Hindu spiritual leader, at a 2008 gathering in Lombard. Paul Michna/
  The former Broadview Academy, on Keslinger Road in La Fox, might be used by followers of Hindu spiritual leader Mata Amritanandamayi, also known as “the hugging saint.” Brian Hill/
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