Community News



July 2014


Demolition begins...

July 10, 2014

Demolition of Mary Hall began in earnest today as a large excavator took aim at walls that have been standing strong, sturdy, and true since 1947.  The heavy equipment arrived late yesterday and the workmen were able to take a couple of preliminary swipes at the building to test its mettle.  One workman described Mary Hall as a "tough building...well built."  

The Sisters would agree.  Sr. Imelda McAninch functioned as both architect and general contractor for Mary Hall when it was constructed.  It indeed is a strong, sturdy building that has served well.  However it is not able to be adapted to meet current accessibility and other life safety codes.  With construction of the new Guest Houses now complete, it is time for Mary Hall and Joseph Hall to come down.  Once demolition of Mary Hall is complete, the workers will turn the excavator toward Joseph.



The workmen took an initial stab at the building late yesterday afternoon after the arrival of the excavator.  Shown here is room 310, from an entirely new perspective.








A few Sisters took in the damage during their after-dinner stroll.  In the background you can see that the exterior walkway connecting Joseph Hall to the Blue Room was also removed as was the old incinerator chimney.






The crew resumed work this morning on the north end of Mary Hall.







The jaws of the excavator stayed active all day.









Many of the irises and other plants, including the mature crepe myrtle at the rear of Mary Hall, were transplanted elsewhere on the monastery grounds in advance of the demolition. (see story from June 17)







The view from the south, with the north half of the building gone.










The small covered hallway that connected Joseph Hall to Mary Hall was among the first elements of the building to go. The open doorway depicted in the middle of Joseph Hall was the former entrance into this hall (next to where the soda machines were formerly located).








Even in the midst of all the rubble, workmen still took care to keep the site tidy.








While the demolition certainly took top billing as a sight to see, life at the monastery continued on, as did other work on Phase III of our renovation/construction project. Trenches were dug today and pipes laid for a waterline connecting Benet Hall and the old chicken barn (which has now been reconfigured into a maintenance area and pottery studio) to the new water lines that were installed for the new guest houses. Interiorly, work continued on placing new hardword flooring outside the monastic chapel. In addition to all this, two tours of the new buildings were given, three private retreatants found quiet nooks amidst the activity, and the Sisters continued on with their lives of prayer and ministry - with frequent curious peeks toward the demolition site.







By mid-afernoon, this was all that remained standing of the top two floors of Mary Hall...










...until it, too, came down in a cloud of dust. 









Mary Hall, now down to the basement level and the lamp posts that marked the way to the porch, is the smallest of the buildings scheduled to be demolished.  As the process continues, the Sisters will be experiencing at least a couple of weeks of significant dust, noise, and disruption. Please pray with us and for us that this difficult and at times delicate task may proceed safely for the workers, the Sisters, and our guests.. 


June 2014


Sister Lynn Marie elected to lead international Benedictine organization

June 27, 2014

The Benedictine Sisters of Cullman joyfully announce that Sister Lynn Marie McKenzie has been elected to serve as President of the Federation of Saint Scholastica. The election, held on June 24, followed a process of prayerful discernment by delegates from the Benedictine communities that comprise the Federation, who met in Chapter this past week at Mount St. Scholastica Monastery in Atchison, KS.

Representing Sacred Heart Monastery at the Chapter meeting were Sister Janet Marie Flemming, Prioress, and Chapter Delegates Sister Priscilla Cohen and Sister Karen Ann Lortscher.

The Federation of Saint Scholastica, founded in 1922, is an organization of 20 Benedictine women's communities of which Sacred Heart Monastery is a founding member. The Federation exists to help its member monasteries preserve and express their spiritual heritage and the Benedictine charism. The Federation has a Constitution which, together with the Rule of St. Benedict and each community's own norms, govern the Benedictine Sisters' way of life. The Federation of St. Scholastica is one of three Federations and one Congregation of Benedictine women in North America.

As President of the Federation, Sister Lynn Marie will serve as the Federation’s official liaison with the Vatican. A particularly important aspect of her role will be to facilitate and moderate Canonical Visitations and Prioress elections held within member monasteries. In addition to guiding the Federation of St. Scholastica, Sr. Lynn will be working closely with the Presidents of other North American Benedictine Federations as well as leaders from within the international Benedictine community and leaders of other Religious Orders.


A quiet retreat, and an eventful two weeks

June 17, 2014

The first two weeks of June at the monastery were marked both by the quiet atmosphere of the Sisters' annual week-long retreat and by much construction-related activity. The Sisters' retreat began on Sunday evening, June 8, and concluded the following Friday when the Sisters renewed their vows during Mass. Sr. Melannie Svoboda, SND, led the monastic community during their week of retreat.

At the Sisters' request, most construction activity was on hold during retreat week, but before and after a considerable amount of work unfolded. Paving was completed and stripes painted on the initial section of the new Retreat Center parking lot. But much of the activity was related to preparing Mary Hall, Joseph Hall, and the former community dining room for demolition. The preparatory activities are now complete and the demolition process began yesterday.

The Sisters dedicated one evening of their retreat to a simple ritual of remembrance prior to the beginning of demolition. After conclusion of the program, the Sisters took one final tour through the buildings that have meant so much to the life of our community, and to the lives of countless others who have passed through the doors of Mary Hall and Joseph Hall.

The two images above and at right represent well the juxtaposition of new and old, of welcome and farewell, that the Sisters have lived with during the two and a half years and three phases of our renovation and construction project. The newly-striped parking lot with Mary Guest House in the background represents some of the new, while the first slide that was shown as part of the program of remembrance suggests the significant 'letting go' that the Sisters have had to do even as they have welcomed the new.

Below are additional images from the past two weeks.




Prior to beginning the monastic community's retreat, Sr. Melannie Svoboda, SND, gave a day-long program in the Retreat Center. It was very well attended, as attested by the full parking lot above (and with many more cars parked elsewhere).







Quiet prevailed during the week of retreat.







Sister Janet Marie, Prioress, addresses the community during the Service of Remembrance.








A brief history of each building that has been or is being taken down was presented.  Here, Sister Mary Vincent shares the history of Joseph Hall.










Everyone had an opportunity to share some of their memories of these buildings. In this photo, Sister Mary Adrian relates an anecdote.






There were many light-hearted moments as evidenced by the smile on Sister Lynn Marie's face.









Following the service, the Sisters made one last trip through the buildings that will be demolished.







The mood was reverent and reflective.




















Most of the beautiful wooden doors, door casings, and much of the wood trim in Mary Hall were removed for salvage over the past two weeks. The stone will also be salvaged. The Sisters and staff have previously transplanted many of flowers and shrubs that surround Mary Hall and Joseph Hall. This past weekend, Sisters Tonette, Mary Adrian, Regina, Kathleen, and Michelle Renee made one final push to remove plants before the buildings are cordoned off.






Oblate William lent a helping hand. Sister Michelle is all smiles despite the hard work.








Sister Tonette works with cuttings and roots from our "heritage rose" - a rose bush that has grown near the corner of the Sisters' former dining room for as long as any Sister can remember. The Sisters spent significant time trying to harvest this rose bush for transplantation.








Sister Elisabeth pauses in her struggle with the remaining roots of the heritage rose.









Sister Regina had to find a new home for the gingko seedlings which she so carefully tends. In this photo she arranges the young trees in their new home.








Despite the many changes, the most important things have not changed. Each day when morning dawns, when evening falls, and when the sun is high in the noonday sky, the Sisters make their way to the chapel to pray.










We would like to introduce you...

 Mary Guest House


St. Joseph Guest House






June 4, 2015

This past weekend, just days after receiving the Certificate of Occupancy, we welcomed the first guests to our newly constructed retreat group accommodations. Giving the buildings their test run were 27 retreatants who gave the new buildings a big "thumbs up."

The previous two weeks had been filled with activity as the Sisters and staff readied for the move after Mary Hall's final weekend of service on May 16-18.  Within this two week span, Retreat Center furnishings from Mary Hall were packed, the final touches were put on the new buildings, post-construction cleaning was completed, professional movers arrived for the furniture move, and the new buildings were readied for guests. 

The Sisters chose to name the two new buildings Mary Guest House and St. Joseph Guest House.  These names provide a connection with their predecessors, but more importantly they call to mind the Holy Family - the Blessed Mother, St. Joseph, and in this retreat setting, Christ, who is present in the guest. 

Following are some photographs from the past two weeks.




The calm before, during, and after the storm.  The new Guest Houses are situated in a peaceful, lovely setting.  Even in the midst of all the activity of the move, an air of tranquility prevailed.








After the final guests departed Mary Hall, the Sisters immediately began packing for the move.  Nearly every Sister at the monastery worked on the move doing everything from taking apart bed frames to cleaning and freshening the crucifixes that were removed from the walls.






A crew of Sisters spent two evenings going room by room taking apart bed frames and headboards to prepare them for the movers. 









Sisters Treva and Jane prepared framed pictures for the move. 








A crew of three Sisters washed, folded, and packed 48 bedspreads while another crew handled the mattress covers and pillow covers. In this photo, Sister Regina takes her turn with the bedspreads.









Even the Mary Hall wastebaskets received a good scrubbing from Sister Mary Adrian before heading to the new buildings. 









Moving day!











Forty-eight mattresses, boxsprings, frames, and headboards...










...and twenty-four desks and desk chairs.









New rooms began to take shape as the various furnishings arrived.









Frames and headboards were reassembled by most of the same Sisters who took them apart.  Here Sister Tonette sorts the nuts and bolts. 








Even as the move proceeded, life kept going in the monastery and Retreat Center. These construction workers were oblivious to the nearby moving activities as they framed steps leading from the new parking lot to an adjoining sidewalk. At top, a retreatant can be seen heading toward her meeting room.  Our retreat ministry has not ceased at any point due to construction or moving.  Ministry even continued during this move with a small group in Benet Hall as Mary Hall was being emptied.






The final result...warm, inviting rooms ready to receive guests. 








A comfortable chair in which to relax, pray, read, or nap.










Each bedroom has a private bath. 







The sliding doors in the kitchen cover storm refuge rooms that can be utilized in times of severe weather.








The Sisters selected and purchased living room furniture with an eye toward comfort, durability, and adaptability.  We anticipate that some smaller groups will wish to use the living rooms as their primary meeting space.

Although the Sisters made this purchase of upholstered furniture, benefactors have been stepping forward to help furnish other needs. Living room carpet, bedside tables and lamps, and other items have been generously donated.  More is still needed and we will soon be posting our "wish list" of items that will help make this a wonderful retreat space for many different types of groups.




Wireless access is available for guests.











An image of Our Lady graces the hallway in Mary Guest House.








Each kitchenette is equipped with a sink, refrigerator, microwave, coffee maker, and toaster.








A telephone in the kitchenette offers intercom access to the Retreat Center office as well as the ability to make local calls.









Fire alarm pulls and fire extinguishers are located throughout the buildings.  A sprinkler system also provides fire safety.








The Retreat Center staff has worked hard helping prepare the buildings for guests, including stocking of the various housekeeping closets. 











With most of the move complete, the Sisters arrived to view the furnished houses, led by Sister Janet Marie, at left.







Sister Mary Ruth smiles her approval.









Sister Tonette gives Sister Emilie a hand as she inspects the grounds.





The long-awaited arrival of the paving crew was a cause for joy! The paving effort  has been hampered by wet weather.









The road and sidewalks take shape, linking the Guest Houses with the meeting and dining areas.







And what's next?   Demolition of Mary Hall, Joseph Hall, and the Sisters' former dining room and kitchen will begin within a few short weeks. In the meantime, we will continue to settle into Mary Guest House and St. Joseph Guest House.  Please check back on this page in the coming days as we post our "wish list" of items that will help improve the welcome we are able to offer our guests.  And please keep us in your prayers as we and our guests continue to settle in. 



May 2014


Construction pace shifts as final touches are applied

May 12, 2014

The construction pace has noticeably shifted as the final touches are applied to the new Retreat Center overnight group accommodations.  The hard hats have disappeared and in their stead construction workers are donning cloth shoe covers to protect the newly installed carpets and floors.  Sod is being laid, curbs installed, and the sounds of heavy equipment are slowly but surely subsiding.  Soon, though, the heavy machinery will crank back up as demolition of Mary Hall and Joseph Hall get underway.

Below are a few pictures of the new buildings.  We can't wait to welcome guests to these beautiful new accommodations!



Building B soaks up the afternoon sun.









It is hard to see in this photograph, but a large Benedictine cross has been etched in the sidewalk between the two buildings.










Building A has a beautiful view across the lawn toward the monastic cemetery.










The view from the Retreat Center dining room porch.  The parking area, part of which is visible at the center of the photograph, will provide convenient access not only to the new buildings but also to the dining room and meeting areas.

The newly-planted roses along the fence are being faithfully watered by our Sisters in Initial Formation. Present to the left of the image, although outside the frame of this photo, are Sr. Kathleen's irises and other blooming plants.







The Sisters are pleased with how the stain on the front door turned out. Note the dense foliage reflected in the windows.  Both buildings are situated in beautiful settings. 












A simple etched pattern in the tinted concrete lends character to the front porches, as does the stone, quarried from a nearby source.









Each bedroom has a private bath.





















The kitchenette is nearly ready for the coffee cups and snacks of the first retreat guests.









Hidden behind the sliding doors on the left are storm refuge rooms, designed to provide a safe haven for guests in times of turbulent weather.









Even as the construction pace slows, the Sisters' pace is in high gear preparing bedroom furnishings for the move from Mary Hall.  Tape measures, furniture inventories, location charts, and work assignment lists are all part of readying for the transition. 








How you can help...

Did you notice the empty kitchenette counters? We are in need of multiple items to help turn these beautiful new buildings into spaces that are not only welcoming, but functional for guests.  While the bedrooms will mostly be furnished from existing Mary Hall supplies, we have identified numerous additional items that are needed in specific dimensions, capacities, colors, etc. We will soon be posting information about how you can help turn these empty buildings into a lovely, inviting home-away-from-home for our retreat guests. 



March 2014


New Retreat Center housing construction proceeding well

March 3, 2014

The construction pace on the new Retreat Center housing has been as brisk as the winter temperatures.  On Building A, siding installation is nearly complete, sheetrock had been hung, interior painting has begun, and the first bathroom tiles have been placed.  Progress on Building B follows just a few short weeks behind  Building A.  Below are some recent pictures from the work site.



Siding installation on Building A nears completion.











Installation of site utilities proceeds apace with the rest of construction.






The ample size of the living room / gathering space makes it an ideal work area for other construction activities.







A bedroom in Building A.  The opening leads toward private bath. 







The view of building B from the living room of Building A.






While much progress has been made with interior work, rainy weather has left much of the surrounding site a muddy mess, delaying some of the exterior activities.




January 2014

Phase III proceeds in the frigid temperatures

January 18, 2014

The nippy temperatures have not been able to stop the construction progress.  The new retreat center housing is looking great.  Advances on House A include installation of electrical, sprinkler, HVAC and gas systems.  House B has exterior walls closed up, windows installed and and a roof. The remaining manholes have been placed in the ground ahead of parking lot and road work.  See below for progress photos.

Manholes and drainage pipes going into the ground


Jan 8--Drainage system installation outside of House A (left)

Jan 14--House B has windows installed; trusses are raised to their proper positions (below)

The first truss being raised into position for House B's roof








House B with trusses in place



Jan 15--Pasture view of the construction area shows the trusses in place on House B





Gathering Room of House A



 Jan 17-- Gathering space in House A





Bedroom and bathroom progress in House A



Jan 17--House A bedroom and bathroom progress





A view of House B from a window in House A show the covered porch design



Jan 17-- A view from a window in House A show the remaining roof decking being applied to House B; the front entry porch that will be on both buildings can be seen clearly

Winter issue of Benedictine Update is published

January 17, 2014

The latest issue of Benedictine Update was mailed this week to our family and friends.  You can link to a pdf version here (note: it is a large file and a slow download).  Be sure and check out the interview with Sr. Treva Heinberg on page 3 and the News Briefs on pages 3 and 6.

Would you like to be among those who receive our various communications via U.S. Mail?  If so, just send a note to the Development Office at 916 Convent Rd. Cullman, AL, 35055 or development (at) shmon (dot) org and let us know your contact information.  You can also sign up for our occasional e-news mailings by clicking on the "Stay connected" box above. 


Phase III progress continues into the new year with added gusto

January 7, 2014

Even in the most frigid temperatures the state of Alabama has seen in decade Phase III construction activities push forward. House A has walls, a roof and windows and is abuzz with plumbers and electricians on a daily basis. Bedroom door frames and shower units are in the process of being set in place.  House B has come a long way since the slab was finally poured a few day before Christmas.  Wall frames are nearing completion and soon will be followed by trusses and exterior plywood.  The pictures below show the rapid progress.

House A bedroom framing



Dec. 26--House A bedroom with private bathroom wall framing





House A Kitchenette wall framing with electrical conduits



Dec. 31--House A kitchenette wall framing with electrical conduits






Dec. 31--A view of House A from the northeast corner of the slab for House B; plumbing and chalk marks for walls are visible in the foreground




House A door frame installation

House A bathroom plumbing



Jan. 2--Door frame and plumbing installation in House A





Jan. 6--House B wall framing progress



House B wall framing progress

December 2013

Back home at last, Community celebrates a joyous Christmas

December 27, 2013

Last Christmas, even as we celebrated liturgically with full and festive voice in the chapel, monastery decorations and baking were kept on the simple side.  We had just completed the immense effort of moving back into Ottilia Hall following the completion of Phase I of Reflect Renew Rejoice, and even as we were still unpacking and sorting from the move we were already beginning to pack the kitchen for its then-upcoming re-location. 

This year, as we decorated first Christmas tree in our new dining room, we were filled with gratitude for the many gifts of this past year.  Not only have we been settled into Ottilia and 4th Annunciata for over a year, we have also settled into our new dining room and kitchen. The bakers have been going full force in the kitchen over the past few weeks, as were the Sisters who helped arrange and decorate everything from our collection of creches to dining room tables to our various Christmas trees. 

However the main celebrations were centered in the chapel where, as in every year, we celebrated with vibrant voice the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Thanks be to God!
























Unique yard sale items still available for purchase

December 12, 2013

With the tables that held our yard sale items now empty of their burdens, it is time to sell the tables themselves!  We have numerous tables available in a variety of shapes and sizes and from a variety of eras.  Some of them are even the farmhouse-style tables formerly used by the Sisters for dining.  A few other unique items are also for sale.  They can be viewed online by clicking here.  All proceeds benefit the capital campaign.

Additionally, heritage door knobs are still available and can be viewed here.















Phase III advances as weather allows

December 11, 2013

What a difference a few days of dry weather can make!  Wall framing for House A is nearing completion. Final preparations for slab pouring are underway for House B. Metal door frames and steel beams for House A's porch have arrived. With eager anticipation the Sisters make occasional trips to the Retreat Center Dining Room windows to check on the progress. Here are some of the most recent photos.

                 Construction of House A from the north side

 A view from the north side of the construction zone shows House A with the monastery and chapel in the background.

                 House A construction viewed from Reteat Center entrance

A view of the construction activities from the Retreat Center entrance.  Interior as well as exterior wall frames can be seen from this angle.

Phase III renovation activities move forward

December 4, 2013

Nov. 21st House A slab work underwayIn the pre-dawn hours of November 21st, the cement trucks began rolling in to begin the slab pouring for House A.  Cement workers continued to work into the late afternoon hours to finish slab ahead of the forecasted rain.  Construction workers headed over to House B to get slab foundations ready for the remaining safe rooms. 


Dec. 2nd Pre-fab safe rooms arrive




On December 2nd, four pre-fab safe rooms were delivered and set in place by crane. 


Dec. 4th Framing begins on House A



Presently, the sub-slab gravel base for House B is nearing completion while framers are hard at work assembling the first wall frames for House A. 

Parking area too wet to continue work




The dirt work for new retreat center parking area has been completed, but the steadily passing rain showers have left this portion of the project at a standstill.

November 2013

Community welcomes new Sister into the Novitiate

November 26, 2013

On Sunday, November 24, during Lauds of Christ the King, Sister Janet Marie Flemming and the monastic Community welcomed Minona D'Souza into the Novitiate.  Minona received from Sister Janet Marie a new name: Sister Minona Anne D'Souza.

As signs of her reception, Sister Janet Marie clothed Sister Minona Anne in the white cuculla (monastic choir robe) of a Novice and presented her with copies of the Rule of St. Benedict and the Constitution of the Federation of St. Scholastica. 

The Novitiate is a year of intense prayer and formation as one who is seeking God through the monastic way of life continues to discern her call and enters more deeply into the process of initial formation into the monastic charism.  During this year, the Novice also engages in work assignments within the monastery as part of her monastic labora and takes classes in scripture, liturgy, and monastic spirituality. 

Sister Magdalena Craig, Director of Initial Formation, will accompany Sister Minona Anne through this year of continued discernment and initial formation.


Above: Sister Janet Marie offers words of instruction to Minona as Sister Magdalena listens.  In the background is the white cuculla, awaiting the clothing portion of the ceremony. 


Yard sale a success!

November 26, 2013

Early on a very cold morning this past Saturday, a good crowd gathered outside the former Retreat Center dining room hoping to gain an early start on their yard sale shopping and a steady stream of customers continued to arrive throughout the morning.  Items ranging from coffee mugs to holiday decor to refrigerators to mattresses made their way to new homes after having served the Sisters well for many years.

Proceeds from the sale went to Phase III of the Capital Campaign.  Most remaining items were donated to a ministry that will distribute them to the poor.  A few larger furniture or architectural items remain for sale and are listed on our website.   

Volunteers contributed greatly to the success of the sale, both in sale preparations and on sale day itself.  Pictured above, volunteers and Sisters work side-by-side at the busy check-out table.


Phase III Update

November 13, 2013

Demolition of Gusmus Hall


In the last few week, the Sisters have watched through the Retreat Center Dining Room windows as the demolition crew removed the final trees and architectural structures (including Gusmus Hall) that remained in the area where the new parking lot will be located. Once the last of the debris was hauled away, the "dirt work" began. 



Packing soil for new parking area



Soil testing revealed that the dirt in this area was not suitable for the parking lot foundation, so a considerable layer of dirt was removed and reused alongside the west corner of House A. Truckloads of good packing dirt have been hauled in to bring the elevation to its required height. 


Plumbers completing final dranage connections on Houses A and B


Meanwhile, drainage plumbing has been completed on House B as the sub-slab gravel has been put in place for House A.

Special Heritage Items available for purchase

November 4, 2013

While preparing for the upcoming Benefit Yard Sale, the Sisters have made special efforts to carefully retrieve items with unique heritage value, particularly door knobs and related hardware from Joseph Hall and other areas soon to be demolished, as well as day student locker doors from Ottilia Hall.   These items will hold particular nostalgic value for many former students of Sacred Heart Academy and College, as well as those who have spent time on retreat at the Benedictine Sisters Retreat Center. 

Even for those with no connection to the Academy, College, or Retreat Center, the items have value as architectural heritage pieces.  They may also be attractive to crafters interested in home decor projects.  At right is a curtain tie-back holder recently created from a Joseph Hall doorknob. 

These heirloom pieces are being sold separately from the other yard sale items.  A list of heritage items available along with instructions on how to purchase them can be found here

The sale of these heritage pieces will benefit Phase III of Reflect Renew Rejoice and the construction of new overnight Retreat Center accommodations.


Sisters attend Dedication of Chapel of St. Kateri Tekakwitha

November 4, 2013

Yesterday, on a beautiful autumn afternoon, four Sisters traveled to the rural community of Springville, Alabama, to join Bishop Robert Baker and Priests, Religious, and Faithful from throughout the Diocese of Birmingham for the Mass of Dedication of the Chapel of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha. 

The Chapel is the new focal point of Camp Tekakwitha, a wilderness camping area operated by the diocesan Office for Youth.  In addition to being used by scouting troops and for other youth functions, the camp provides meeting space for the diocesan Kateri Circle, a gathering of Catholic Native Americans.

Pictured above are Sisters Lynn Marie McKenzie,

Marie Leonard, Elisabeth Meadows, and Karen Ann Lortscher.   They were grateful to be able to attend the dedication and have enjoyed sharing news of the event with other members of the Community. 

October 2013


Benefit Yard Sale to be held November 23;

select furniture items available for pre-sale viewing and purchase

October 28, 2013

On November 23, from 8:30 AM until 2:00 PM, the Sisters will hold a Yard Sale to benefit the construction of new Retreat Center overnight accommodations. 

The event will be held, rain or shine, at Sacred Heart Monastery, 916 Convent Road, Cullman, Alabama.  An extensive variety of goods will be available for purchase. A select group of unique furniture items is available for preview and pre-sale by appointment only. These items can be previewed on-line by clicking here.




Phase III Construction Update

October 26, 2013

Phase III construction has moved forward without any delays.  The foundation "pads" upon which the foundation slabs of the two new buildings will be poured have been completed. The construction crew has established the outer perimeter of House A and is nearing midway of the same process with House B.  Sprinkler feed pipes can be seen rising up out of the ground where they will enter each building. The Cullman Power Board had trucks out placing a power pole that will feed temporary power to the job site from existing lines.

Removal of trees around Gusmus (former monastery guest house) has begun.  All of the smaller trees and bushes that could possibly be saved have been relocated to other areas on the property, including the large crepe myrtle tree that was located alongside Gusmus' carport. This area is being cleared to provide an appropriate water run-off system and parking areas for retreat center guests.  The house and nearby storage shed so that landscape work can begin in this area.

Elevation changes where House B will be located


October 15th--The east side of the construction site shows the change in elevation from the original pasture land and the height of the pad for House B.




Temporary power being run to the job site


October 18th--Cullman Power Board sets up a pole to provide power to the construction site from an existing power pole near the barn



Finishing the perimeter of House A



October 24th--Construction crew works along the east side of House A in establishing the slab's perimeter



Tree removal around Gusmus underway



October 25th--Several large trees from around Gusmus have been removed so that demolition of the house can begin next week.

Sister Michelle Renee makes her First Monastic Profession

October 20, 2013

The beginning of solemn Vespers At Solemn Vespers on October 19, 2013, novice Sister Michelle Renee St. Marie made her first monastic profession in Sacred Heart Monastery Chapel. Joining the monastic community on this special occasion were family and friends of Sister Michelle, including her two sisters, Annie and Paulette, along with their family members.  Oblates of Sacred Heart Monastery and several monks from St. Bernard Abbey were also in attendance.

During the Rite of First Monastic Profession, Sister Michelle Renee read aloud her profession document in which she promised to live a life of stability, obedience, and conversion by the monastic way of life.  The document was then signed on the altar by Sister MichelleSister Michelle Renee reads her profession document Renee followed by Sister Janet Marie Flemming, Prioress, Sister Magdalena Craig (Sister Michelle's Novice Director), and Sister Mary McGehee (Sister Michelle's Scholastic Director). 

First Profession is a commitment for a period of three years, during which Sr. Michelle will continue to study various aspects of monastic life, participate fully in the daily life of the community and engage in full-time ministry.  The monastic community traditionally calls this time of temporary commitment the Scholasticate, and the temporary professed are guided by a Scholastic Director.

Signing of the profession documentAlso, the white choir robe, called a cuculla, that Sister Michelle Renee wore as a novice was exchanged for a black one as a sign of her place in the community as a professed member. The profession rite concluded with members of the monastic community coming forward in procession to offer a greeting of peace.

Celebrations continued after Vespers with a festive dinner in the monastic dining room.Sister Michelle receives her black cuculla

The communty members give a greeting of peaceA second round of congratulationsThe happy and relieved Sister Michelle Renee

Oblates gather for annual retreat

October 18, 2013

This past weekend, the Oblates of Sacred Heart Monastery gathered for their annual retreat at the monastery.  Sr. Priscilla Cohen, Oblate Director, led their reflections.  The Oblates joined the Sisters for liturgy, meals, and other times of fellowship. 

A few photos from the weekend can be found here

Phase III construction begins!

October 11, 2013

On September 30, ground was broken for two new structures that will serve as overnight accommodations for groups visiting the Retreat Center.  The building site is located near the new retreat meeting and dining areas on a portion of the pasture to the northeast of the monastery.  New guest parking is also a part of the construction effort, as is the demotion of Mary Hall and Joseph Hall after the two new buildings are complete.  Mary and Joseph Halls, both adapted from previous uses and pressed into service to meet the needs of retreat ministry, have served the Retreat Center well for over 37 years but can no longer be adapted to the meet the needs of today's guests.  The new structures will allow the monastic community to offer retreatants significantly improved, safer, and more accessible accommodations.

The new buildings under construction will each accommodate up to 24 individuals in 12 bedrooms (each bedroom with private bath), allowing for a total occupancy of 48. Each building will contain a kitchenette, living room, covered porch, and reinforced severe-weather room.

The Sisters are grateful and delighted that this long-awaited project is at last underway.  Please pray with us for fair weather and a safe and speedy completion of this third and final phase of Reflect Renew Rejoice.


The two new structures are depicted on the left side of this rendering. 







September 28 - looking toward the site (just beyond the light pole and road) before construction begins







October 1 - Silt fencing goes up to the west of the site.  Stones preserved from the former Rock House, a small structure formerly to the rear of the chapel, have been carefully tucked away for use in the new buildings.








October 2 - A protective gate goes up, restricting traffic to the rear of the monastery.  Heavy equipment begins re-shaping the land.








October 8 - Site work continues.  Fair skies have allowed good progress.  The cross above Mother Ottilia's grave can be seen in the background of the picture below.









October 8 - Countless loads of fill dirt have been brought in by an endless parade of dump trucks in order to level out the land and prepare the site.  Topsoil is being stored along the side driveway and the cemetery road for later reuse. 




October 9 - With the planting of stakes, the cleared land begins to look more like a construction site.