A giant wave is crashing onto the shores of Ottilia Hall this week as we begin to move back into our newly-renovated main monastery building. This single, giant swell comes after a process so slow that at times one could barely discern that a wave was even forming. But now, after seven years of slowly building up to a crest, it is suddenly spilling onto the shore.
Over seven years ago, after informal discussion and preparation, our community began a formal process to ready ourselves to update our aging facilities. However our first call was not to an architect or structural engineer. Rather, our leaders called the community together to delve deeply into our monastic charism and to discuss what sort of physical environment we needed to support our Benedictine life. We dove into the Rule of St. Benedict together. We read Michael Casey, Charles Cummings, and other monastic writers. We talked and prayed together as a community – for well over two years. Then, and only then, did we call in architects, engineers, and other experts to help us assess our options and make the necessary decisions. We wanted our plans to grow from the depths of our monastic charism and not be dictated solely by the particularities of the structures themselves.
Once the experts had weighed in and plans were in place, we slowly evacuated Ottilia in a carefully planned sequence of moves that took place over many months. We tucked ourselves here and there into every possible nook and cranny across our various buildings. Then on February 10, 2011 – the Feast of St. Scholastica – Sister Lynn Marie and I were the last to vacate the building.
During the long slow cresting of this seven year wave, we’ve had one tornado, one auction, two mega-yard sales, and as many meetings as there are stars in the sky. Three new Sisters have entered. Five Sisters have died. Eight steps have separated the dining room from the building where most of us have resided, steps laboriously but faithfully navigated by even those with walkers. We’ve rounded the liturgical cycles again and again, hosted thousands of guests, and watched in awe as a parade of workmen has passed before us, each contributing some sort of little (or big!) miracle to Ottilia. And tomorrow, after seven long years of preparation and labor and nearly two years of ‘exile,’ we will begin the return to our home.
The sequence of moving back in is just as carefully planned as our move out, but it will happen nearly all at once over just a few days in a tremendous wave of energy and effort. There are a few of us who will linger just a bit longer in our temporary quarters, but not much longer.
Waves originate not near the shore, but out in the far reaches of the ocean. They draw their energy from the wind. Our seven year wave originated from the depths of our desire to seek God within monastic community – and to do that as good stewards of what God has entrusted to us. The wind that has drawn us toward the shore has been the breath of the Holy Spirit as we have sought inspiration though prayer, study, and seeking God together.
The coming days will be filled with the challenge and hard work of transition. But our hearts are full of great thanksgiving and joy! Please rejoice with us and pray for us as we joyfully spill back onto the shore of our beloved home.
Postscript: Phases II and III of our project are still swells that are making their way toward shore. The completion of Phase II is not too far away and we anticipate ‘landfall’ sometime very early in the new year. Phase III, new Retreat Center overnight accomodations, will follow Phase II. As you rejoice with us over our return to our home, please keep these next phases, and the Capital Campaign, in your prayers.
The top two images are of the 3rd floor Community Room. The beautiful pine floors are original to the structure and were uncovered and restored as part of the renovation. The bottom image is sunlight shining wave-like through the blinds onto the wall of Sr. Mary Vincent’s room. More images will follow here on the weblog, as well as on the Community News and Monastery Moments pages.