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 unforgettable adventure!

Foundation Stones

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.


Consternation!!

What 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.

And 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. 

Building progress

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 resident foxes!

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 different opinions! 

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 achievement!

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. 

Gratitude

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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