THE BUILDING OF OUR NEW MONASTERY 2003-4
Note 1: We will be adding slideshows of the building process and views of the
new monastery to our gallery section in due course
Note 2: The text on this page is abbreviated from our Christmas Newsletters
from 2000-2005 which will be added to the Resources section soon,
where you can read more about the building adventure!!
Planning the new monastery
The new millenium marked a big milestone in the history of our Carmelite
Monastery in Kilmacud. Early in the year 2000, advice from architect, engineer
and fire safety specialists made it
clear that our 200+ year old house was no longer suitable, and we needed to
build a new monastery. Fortunately, our
beautiful Chapel was considered to be in good condition and could be retained.
After much prayer and discussion, we
decided to undertake the building project with unshakeable trust in Providence,
under the protection of St. Joseph,
and in complete confidence that our many friends would rally round. From the beginning, it was not just a
new building we were planning - it was a new beginning, a
starting afresh from Christ.
Inspired by Pope John Paul, we wanted to be "sentinels of the dawn" in the new millenium, who,
strong in faith, keep watch awaiting the dawn.
On the feast of Our
Lady of Perpetual Succour
in 2002, we saw the model of the new St. Joseph's for the first time. It
enchanted us with its simple line and chaste beauty. Light is its big feature — and our hope was that
it would indeed be a place where God's light can freely flow........
The new monastery was planned at the other side of our old Chapel – the old
blending with the new. The planning of our
new monastery with Derek Kilfeather, our architect, and Br. Pat Mullins, our adviser, was certainly an
Aug. 11th 2003 was D-day as the J.C.B.
and machinery arrived to clear the site for building. In no time a wide roadway was
constructed across our field, layers of
granite bored, and huge pyramids of soil and rock appeared. A
"village" of containers took up residence. The parable of the man who "dug, dug deep" (Lk 6:47) came alive as we explored the carefully planned
foundations; the deep trenches and granite beds. While the sheer power and speed of modern technology amazed
us, we were full of admiration too for our hard working men on the ground. We were singing a new Canticle:
"J.C.B. and Breffni, bless the Lord;
Engineers and Rock breakers bless the Lord;
Cement Mixers and Fork-lifts bless the Lord;
Bricklayers and Carpenters bless the Lord;
And you, every Crane in the sky, oh bless the Lord,
To Him be highest glory and praise forever!!
Progress was so good that we were able
to have the Blessing of the Foundation Stone on site on Oct. 1st, Feast
of St. Therese. It was heartening for our architect Derek Kilfeather to see his
creation take shape, as he addressed the large gathering of friends. Fr John
Grennan. O.C.D. Provincial, officiated
using the silver trowel that had been used for the laying of the Foundation
Stone of the Chapel in 1896. A cylinder containing a scroll with our
names, relics of Carmelite Saints, and a brief history of our Carmel was set in the foundations. Fr Loftus
our P.P. was chief Celebrant at the Mass that followed in honour of St Therese.
marvels the Lord worked for us! Our original plan had been to remain in our old
monastery until the new St Joseph's
was built, but it soon became clear that we needed to evacuate to give
the builders full scope to proceed with the extension of our public chapel and sacristy. Imagine our consternation! WHERE
to go? WHO could take us in? HOW could we possibly clear, recycle, and store all our
"stuff - 122 years of it?! This call to deeper trust helped us experience something of the bewildering insecurity of so
many of our refugee brothers and sisters. What huge relief and joy
when our Prioress, Sr Mary Joseph announced that our good neighbours, Sr Mary
Corr and her community, Handmaids of the Sacred Heart, with the blessing of
their Provincial, Sr Margaret Scott, had opened wide their hearts and lovely
home to us. We were overwhelmed by their generosity and kindness. They were already planning to move to a different
part of their convent, leaving a whole self-contained wing that seemed
tailor-made to our needs: a lovely room each, Prioress's office, two large
adjoining classrooms; one for altarbreads,
the other for community recreation, meetings, lectio divina, sewing etc. We
shared the beautiful chapel with the Sisters and local people for Mass,
Adoration, Morning & Evening Prayer - also for our hours of personal prayer
and the rest of the Divine Office.
Then began the unprecedented and mammoth task of
moving out of our old St. Joseph’s.
Sr M Gabriel, home from Lithuania,
spearheaded the whole packing business with amazing competence and energy. We
could never have got there without her. Our former grocer, Frank,
scouted around and kept us supplied with an
endless flow of cardboard boxes - hundreds of them! All sorts of "treasures" were unearthed; nooks and
crannies crammed with heirlooms since our Foundation. in 1881. We
could write a book on "operation storage" painstakingly manoeuvered
by Srs M Joseph and Gabriel, as, bit
by bit, Kilmacud Carmel was entrusted to the safekeeping of so many wonderful
religious communities and dear
friends. We could never have tackled this without the skill and
"muscle" of our host of
helpers with their ever-ready fleet of cars, taxis, vans ..... We
recalled St Teresa's words, "Let the Sisters who come after
us strive to keep on beginning... " Yes, we had a vivid sense of beginning
too, although our hearts ached at letting go of the home we all loved so
well. Nothing dies but something new is born... Our last retreat in St Joseph's, with Fr Stan
Mellett, C.SS.R.. a few weeks before our departure, brought us healing and
courage for the last lap.
so, on Fri 24lh Oct, 11 exhausted pilgrims crossed the threshold of
St Raphaela's in time for Evening Prayer.
We found rest in the Handmaids" loving welcome, and our spirits
soon revived as we celebrated a festive meal together. No words could express
our gratitude to Srs Many Corr and each of those wonderful Sisters. There was no end to
their goodness and kindness. Thanks to their heartfelt welcome, we were quickly
able to make ourselves at home, establishing our daily rhythm of prayer, Divine
Office, Lectio, recreation, distribution of altarbreads etc. Our two
Communities lived side by side for eighteen months, sharing our joys and
sorrows, (and our complementary talents!), in growing appreciation of the
beauty and uniqueness of our different charisms.
Throughout 2004, the ever-widening circle of wonderful people we met
whilst living at St. Raphaela’s gave us a rich insight into today’s world,
confirming us more than ever in the relevance of our Carmelite vocation of prayer.
We were privileged to glimpse the newness
that is in every stale thing when we look at it through the bright morning
eyes of the children who join us at Mass.
We took delight in the ever-changing beauty of Nature in the expansive grounds
with their sea and mountain vistas, and thrilled every time we glimpsed the
But it wasn’t all ‘holy idleness’ – we kept a close eye on the progress
of our new building - we went down countless times to oversee the work,
and we still had our garden to attend to, with fruit picking trips on the balmy
summer evenings. The demolition of our beloved old St. Joseph’s in early February pulled at our
heartstrings, but our new monastery surpassed all our expectations. The
beautiful arched cloister with its enclosed garden and fountain creates a peaceful
monastic atmosphere. The new is cleverly aligned to the old. With
the granite wall of the chapel forming the 4th side of the cloister,
linked by a marvellous high glass roof, the new grows out of the old-an
eloquent tribute to the Sisters who have gone before us and to whom we owe so
much. There are spectacular views of Dublin Bay,
Howth etc. from all the upstairs windows facing north and east, and even from
the ground floor. The library and Prayer Room are special features, and
it is lovely that the latter looks straight across to the roof of our parish Church. And
a new feature in our garden is thanks to Pat Hickey from Wexford, who created a
lovely Lourdes grotto
from large granite rocks excavated from the foundations of the new building!
Meanwhile, up at St. Raphaela’s there were many conferences as we
debated such burning issues as colour of paints, curtains, tiles etc.
etc! Being very democratic everyone had her say, but Sr. Mary Joseph, our
Prioress, often needed the Wisdom of Solomon to reach a consensus from 11
A new home!
Early in spring
2005, our new monastery was finished and ready for us to move in. Again, our
stalwart helpers were drafted in, and every Saturday they brought back vanloads
of our stored furniture etc, and soon the wide cloister corridor adjoining the
chapel looked like a huge warehouse packed high with boxes of all shapes and
sizes! On March 5th – only two weeks before the planned opening day
– we finally moved into our new St.
Joseph’s. After Vespers with the Handmaids, and a
special ‘last supper’ together, they ferried us down to our new monastery,
helped us make beds and generally get installed. Outside there was the
comforting glow from the floodlit Lourdes
grotto. Mary was welcoming us home! We were back! Our first
night in our beautiful new St. Joseph’s!
Next morning, as
the chapel wasn’t ready, we had our first Mass celebrated by Fr. Billy, Prior
of Gort Muire, in the intimacy of our prayer-room upstairs. For the next
fortnight we continued like this, just ourselves and our O.Carm.
chaplains. We felt very much like a ‘little flock’, blessed by the Lord,
yet vulnerable, on the brink of a new mission... We needed time to find our
feet, (and many another thing too!) before the Opening. From that little
haven of peace, and fortified by our daily Eucharist, Prayer, and Divine
Office, we set forth to work on the mammoth task that lay ahead; to have the
place ready for March 19th! By ourselves, it would have been
impossible, but with God’s help and so kind friends, we reached our goal. Buckets,
brushes, hoovers, ladders, and plenty of good humour and smiling faces helped
us through those days!! What an
Opening day and blessing of the new monastery
St. Joseph’s day was a day
of glory from beginning to end, the crowning of our long years of planning and
hard work and that of our architect, Derek Kilfeather, and all in Midlands
Construction. Heaven blessed us with warm sunshine and glorious
blue skies. Our spring flowers were bursting forth, the cloister windows
were sparkling and our fountain danced for joy! Everyone was in festive
mood; visiting Carmelites, local religious, family members etc.
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, Fr. Des Hayden, our OCD and O.Carm. Brethren, Fr.
Michael Loftus P.P. and several priest friends led us in a beautiful
Thanksgiving Mass. The Archbishop spoke encouragingly of our
Contemplative life and its importance in the Church; a call to communion with
God, wonderfully exemplified by our patron, St. Joseph. After Mass we had the
lovely prayers of Blessing in the cloister corridor and then Sr. Mary Joseph
brought the Archbishop through the house for the blessing of all the rooms.
Finally we all spilled out into the sunshine of the front lawn where he planted
a ‘Canadian Red’ sapling, reminding us that it can grow for 6,000
years. Looks like we’re here to stay! Our hearts were bursting
with praise and thanksgiving as we sang the final hymn, How Great Thou Art!
in that lovely open-air setting. We then veered towards our spacious
parlours and refectory for the delicious meal served by caterers. Reels
of photographs have recorded that unforgettable day!
Planting of the Canadian Redwood on our
opening day - 19th March 2005
Sr. Mary Joseph our Prioress with Fr. John Grennan OCD, Provincial (right) and Derek Kilfeather, architect (left)
April 24th was
another ‘open day’ for our friends. Fr. John Grennan, OCD, Provincial,
chief celebrant, gave an inspiring homily about aligning ourselves to Jesus,
the Cornerstone. All who visit marvel at the natural light that pervades
our monastery and extended chapel. The wide corridors, gentle cloister
arches, soft colours, fountain, sea vistas, all create a peaceful harmony and
simple beauty that is most conducive to prayer.
No words could express our gratitude to each person who helped us to
build our new monastery. We want our new St.
Joseph's to be a
house of prayer for all peoples, and we are so grateful to everyone who offered
support, encouragement, endless services
and generous fundraising. It would not be possible to thank each person
individually, but the Lord knows who you are and we regularly ask Him to reward
each of you. The
names of all our Benefactors are under the Tabernacle in our new Prayer Room.
Now, some years later, we still must trust in God’s Providence as we work towards paying off our
debts completely, and we are always grateful for any assistance, great or
small, towards our building fund. The story of St. Joseph’s Monastery,
Kilmacud, will continue into the future as we constantly remind ourselves of
the words of our Holy Mother St. Teresa: “We are beginning now; but let those who come after us strive always
to make a new start and to better themselves...".
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