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 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.
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)
Jan 15--Pasture view of the construction area shows the trusses in place on House B
Jan 17-- Gathering space in House A
Jan 17--House A bedroom and bathroom progress
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
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.
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.
Dec. 26--House A bedroom with private bathroom wall framing
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
Jan. 2--Door frame and plumbing installation in House A
Jan. 6--House B wall framing progress
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!
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.
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.
A view from the north side of the construction zone shows House A with the monastery and chapel in the background.
A view of the construction activities from the Retreat Center entrance. Interior as well as exterior wall frames can be seen from this angle.
December 4, 2013
In 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.
On December 2nd, four pre-fab safe rooms were delivered and set in place by crane.
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.
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 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.
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.
November 13, 2013
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.
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.
Meanwhile, drainage plumbing has been completed on House B as the sub-slab gravel has been put in place for House A.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
October 18th--Cullman Power Board sets up a pole to provide power to the construction site from an existing power pole near the barn
October 24th--Construction crew works along the east side of House A in establishing the slab's perimeter
October 25th--Several large trees from around Gusmus have been removed so that demolition of the house can begin next week.
October 20, 2013
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 Michelle 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.
Also, 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.
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.
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.
August 12, 2013
This past weekend, Sisters Tonette Sperando, Lynn Marie McKenzie, Therese Haydel, and Elisabeth Meadows traveled to Sacred Heart Monastery in Yankton, SD, to attend a gathering of Benedictine Sisters ages 55 and under. Attendees were from the four major federations/congregation representing Benedictine women's communities in North America: the Federation of St. Benedict, the Federation of St. Gertrude, the Federation of St. Scholastica, and the Congregation of the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration. Adding an international flavor to the gathering were Sisters from daughter-houses in Brazil and South Korea.
Several years ago, with the encouragement of their Federation President, Sisters ages 55 and under from monasteries of the Federation of St. Scholastica began gathering every two years in order to meet one another and hear conferences from their monastic elders on topics related to monastic life in contemporary circumstances. Two years ago, the gathering was expanded to include participants from all four Federations/Congregation.
This year's meeting featured a presentation by sociologist Sr. Edith Bogue, O.S.B., Ph.D., presentations and a panel discussion by the Presidents of the three Federations and the Prioress General of the Congregation, and group dialogue sessions based upon questions posed by the speakers.
Over 90 Sisters attended the gathering, representing monasteries from throughout the U.S.
Pictured at top (left to right) are Sisters Therese, Tonette, Elisabeth, and Lynn Marie at the conference in Yankton. Pictured below is the gathered assembly.
July 30, 2013
This past Saturday, Sister Priscilla Cohen marked the 25th anniversary of her monastic profession in a joyful Eucharistic Celebration followed by a festive luncheon in the Retreat Center dining room. Sister Janet Marie Flemming, Prioress, received Sister's renewal of her monastic profession during the Jubilee Mass while Rev. Kevin McGrath, OSB, presided at Eucharist. Joining to celebrate with Sister Priscilla were her monastic community, her family, friends, and monks of St. Bernard Abbey.
Sister Priscilla serves as Secretary and Monastic Coordinator for the monastic community and also ministers part-time as a Registered Nurse at St. Vincent's Hospital in Birmingham. In addition to these roles, Sister Priscilla serves as Oblate Director for the community. Numerous Oblates traveled to Cullman to join Sister Priscilla and the community in celebrating the Jubilee.
Below are several photos from the Eucharistic Celebration and the luncheon that followed.
Sisters gather for opening procession.
The opening hymn.
Sister Bernadette proclaims a reading from Scripture.
Sister Priscilla signs the hand-written document renewing her vows as Sister Janet Marie looks on. In the foreground, her jubilee candle sits upon the altar.
Sister Priscilla's sister, Frances Noa, and brother-in-law Vincent Noa, present the gifts.
Following Mass, the monastic community greeted Sister Priscilla in the 2nd Ottilia hallway with the community's traditional reception of those making or renewing their vows.
An array of summer salads and other luncheon fare was enjoyed by guests.
Sisters Mary Jude and Mary Vincent enjoy a light-hearted moment with guests.
July 6, 2013
The summer issue of Benedictine Update has been mailed to family and friends of the Benedictine Sisters. To read the latest issue online click here.