A Time to Renew our Home and Ministry

Sacred Heart Monastery is a 200-acre campus located in a beautiful, natural setting that belies its proximity to the city of Cullman.  In addition to providing a home for the community of Sisters, the grounds house two significant ministries: the Benedictine Sisters Retreat Center, a spiritual retreat complex for individuals and groups of any denomination, and Benedictine Manor, a Catholic retirement residence for independent living open to people of all faiths. 

Now, 109 years since the founding of the community in Cullman, the Sisters' home, Ottilia Hall is in need of major updating and repair to make it safe and accessible for the Sisters and more efficient in its operation.  The Retreat Center is also in need of significant improvements.  After an extensive architectural and engineering study over a two-year period, the Sisters decided that they cannot delay the updating and repair any longer.  The monastery and Retreat Center must be renovated to provide safety and accessibility for the Sisters and visitors alike.  And so, the Sisters have developed a Master Plan and embarked on a Capital Campaign to raise the funds needed for renovation.

In 2010, the Sisters began the Advance Phase of the Campaign. Following a successful Advance Phase, the Sisters launched the public phase of the Campaign in January 2011.

The Master Plan for the renovation is structured in three phases, and the Sisters have wisely planned each phase, contingent on raising the needed funds before moving from one phase to the next.  The overall project includes the updating of access roads, entrances to the Monastery, Retreat Center, and infirmary, as well as improved and more efficient windows, heating/air conditioning systems, and a centralized kitchen that will serve both residents and guests to the monastery.

The need is great, and the time is right for the Sisters to embark on this journey of faith and hope. We invite you to partner with us in this journey.



Below are some questions and answers that will provide more information about the Campaign and the needs that prompted the Sisters to seek your assistance.

To view answers, click on question or scroll page.

What specific issues prompted the need for fundraising?

Why conduct a capital campaign?

How did the Sisters prepare for the capital campaign?

What will the campaign accomplish?

How will the renovated buildings be used?

How will the campaign be implemented?

How much will the renovations cost?

What accommodations will be made for operational issues and environmental concerns?

What specific issues prompted the need for fundraising?
The maintenance challenges at the 100+ year old Sacred Heart Monastery are formidable. There is concern about fire, the unreliability of heat, the inadequacy of the bathrooms, and accessibility in and to areas used by guests and the elderly Sisters, many of whom have limited mobility.

Ottilia Hall is the main building.  Although the historical structure is sound, the heating, electrical, and plumbing systems are antiquated and sometimes non-functioning. 

  • The plumbing, added in the years after the building was completed in 1904, has all the problems that "old pipes" can cause.
  • Because the heating system is inefficient, costs to operate it are prohibitive, so the boiler is only used for a few hours each day.
  • The current facility does not have the capacity to adequately support modern technology and internal systems. 
  • The Sisters are living in multiple buildings because some bedrooms are inaccessible, most are very small, and some are "cells" without sufficient closet space and no desk work area.
  • The kitchen that serves the Sisters and their guests, as well as retreatants and workshop participants, is an inefficient multi-room area which was adapted from other areas and uses.
  • The dining room does not have indoor access from the Sisters' living quarters and everyone must traverse corridors and porches to reach it.
  • Cullman's fire department is uncertain it can place equipment in the rear of the building to deal with fire and rescue because of the narrow, angled drive.
  • Click here for pdf images that illustrate a few of the needs within the monastery.

The Retreat Center, established in 1976, utilizes vacated space once appropriate for dormitory and college life.  Now, multiple foundations, differing structural and mechanical systems, and outdated roofs require continual maintenance and repair.

  • There is concern for life-safety issues involving narrow stairwells, no handicap accessibility, and poor structural foundations - creating potential liability for the Sisters and guests.
  • Shared bathroom facilities are inadequate for current overnight guests.
  • Plumbing, heating, and cooling systems need constant repair.
  • Meeting rooms are widely dispersed and access is inconvenient, requiring either stairs or an exterior route.
  • Click here for pdf images that illustrate a few of the needs within the Retreat Center.

Why conduct a capital campaign?
Each religious community is expected to support its members, ministries, and capital needs.  The Sisters live modestly, and they are creative in generating revenue.  However, they must have help to raise sufficient funds for major improvements to a historically-significant building and the ancillary services for the Monastery.  A total renovation is long overdue.  A formal capital campaign is the most effective way to ensure long term use of the facilities.

How did the Sisters prepare for the capital campaign?

  • Created a master plan for all the property and facilities at Sacred Heart Monastery.
  • Commissioned architectural, engineering, and construction studies.
  • Analyzed the benefits of new construction vs. renovation, expansion of the Retreat Center, and demolition of old buildings.
  • Engaged a Capital Campaign fundraising firm to conduct Feasibility Study in 2008. 
  • Achieved consensus within their Benedictine community to proceed with capital campaign fundraising.

What will the campaign accomplish?
Charitable gifts will provide funding to:

  • Consolidate housing into one facility for all the Sisters (Phase One)
  • Add a commercial-grade kitchen to serve the Sisters and their guests, retreatants and workshop participants. (Phase One)
  • Renovate auditorium space to provide public restrooms, as well as a gathering and dining space for the Sisters (Phase One)
  • Renovate living and administrative spaces, providing greater safety and accessibility.  (Phases One, Two, Three)
  • Update infrastructure systems including plumbing, electrical, and HVAC. (Phases One, Two, Three)
  • Renovate current infirmary space to provide meeting rooms and offices for the Retreat Center. (Phase Two)
  • Provide more suitable housing for retreatants and workshop participants. (Phase Three)
  • Improve access to and from the Monastery buildings for fire and rescue. (Phases One, Two, Three)
  • Add two buildings to accommodate guests with private rooms with baths. (Phase Three)

How will the renovated buildings be used?
Ottilia Hall will provide:

  • Living accommodations for 31 Sisters
  • Offices for the community's administration
  • Relocation of the infirmary from another building

Annunciata Hall will provide:

  • Retreat Center meeting rooms and offices
  • Two handicap-accessible (A.D.A) guest rooms
  • Public restroom facilities
  • Relocated Library and Gift Shop
  • Spiritual direction rooms (one-on-one meeting rooms for private counseling)
  • Relocated archives
  • Internal offices for the Sisters
  • Additional living space for the Sisters

Auditorium will provide:

  • Gathering space for the Sisters
  • Dining space for the Sisters
  • Public restrooms for guests

How will the campaign be implemented?
The campaign will be implemented in phases, based on the Master Plan and the logical order of demolition and construction. Ottilia Hall must be renovated as the first priority to provide safety and security for the Sisters and to minimize any disruption to those who utilize the Retreat Center during construction. Phases II and III will thoroughly modernize the Retreat Center and bring its capacity to its fullest complement. Renovations will progress from phase to phase as sufficient commitments are received.

How much will the renovations cost?
Click here for total cost and breakdown by phase.

What accommodations will be made for operational issues and environmental concerns?
The Sisters respect the natural beauty of the grounds, so as few trees as possible will be affected by the project.  Recycling exemplifies the Benedictine commitment to good stewardship.  Because outdated equipment and building systems waste energy, the Sisters are committed to utilize more efficient and effective technologies in the renovation. 


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