“We knew in our hearts we would never just abandon the old monastery. The labor and love of those who had suffered and struggled to bring it into being had made it too sacred a space. The prayers of over 60 years are embedded in its walls.”
Mother Abbess Lucia Kuppens,
Monastic Project Manager
“Why are old buildings more freeing? They free you by constraining you. Since you don’t have to address the appalling vacuum of a blank site, … It is much easier to continue than to begin. Less time is needed. And you can do it by stages while using the space. The building already has a story; all you have to do is add the interesting next chapter.”
Stewart Brand in
How Buildings Learn
LATEST DEVELOPMENTS TOWARDS LAUNCHING PHASE II OF OUR NEW HORIZONS PROJECT!
We have just received the formal estimate for the completion of Phase II. It will cost $9.5 million dollars. Through your immense generosity and support of our mission, we have already been able to raise $5 million towards that goal.
We are at a critical juncture now. We must raise $4.5 million in order to launch Phase II. The designs are finished and the builders are set to begin some time in 2017 – if we are able to raise the money. This will literally be impossible without you. Although we are a religious organization which is part of the Roman Catholic Church, we receive no financial support from the Church.
Phase II will complete the transformation of the existing factory building complex that provides the main living quarters of the monastic community. The core of this final phase is the complete rebuilding of the chapel that we have loved since the foundation of the Abbey in 1948. Unfortunately, the chapel is not strong enough to weather a renovation. It is beset by structural deterioration, poor ventilation, mold infestation, inadequate insulation and poor lighting. It does not have enough space to accommodate our growing community and must be entirely rebuilt.
Phase II of New Horizons will also see the transformation of an existing dormitory into an urgently needed infirmary, as well as much needed improvements to living spaces for the nuns, workshops, offices and places where the community can meet with guests. All new construction will also offer a solution to our current energy issues. Our entire project is guided by sound principles of sustainability.
We are ensuring and enhancing our ability to continue to serve as a stable, welcoming center of prayer, spiritual solace and encouragement to all who come to us. We are caring for our elders and building a home for our new vocations who are the future and the continuity of our mission and our spirituality.
Won’t you support us during this Christmas season by making a donation in any amount to our New Horizons project? By your donation, you would become our partner in carrying out our mission of prayer, hospitality and stewardship. We receive your gifts with great gratitude and assure you of our prayers for you and for the world. Through your generosity and support we are coming close to fulfilling our hopes for this project.
Click on photographs in sidebar on right to see details of models constructed by Mother Alma Eggar of the projected New Chapel.
Watch a short video of Mother Dolores Hart's Christmas greeting and heartfelt request for help with our New Horizons Renovation Project.
All contributions to the Abbey of Regina Laudis (attention: New Horizons) are tax deductible as permitted by law.
BACKGROUND TO THE PROJECT
In 2011 due to inadequate and deteriorating housing, we launched a renovation project, the scope of which is unprecedented in the history of our Abbey. We have literally outgrown our monastery, which no longer serves a community of our size and our needs. This is a watershed moment for us: without a major renovation of our building we will not be equipped to continue to welcome the women who are asking to answer a call to a religious vocation at Regina Laudis, women who will take our spirituality and our mission into the future. We also want to provide our elders with the space necessary for increased mobility, independence and safety. The restoration project that we have named New Horizons will allow the restructuring of our sixty-year-old building to meet new, stricter fire, safety, and access codes.
The Abbey’s main living complex is housed in a factory building purchased by Lady Abbess in 1948 from Waterbury industrialist Robert Leather. The founding members of Regina Laudis re-modeled the building, which had never been used as a brass polish factory for which it was constructed. They envisioned that the factory building would be a "temporary monastery" until they could build a “real monastery” in the European tradition. Co-foundress Mother Marie Aline spearheaded the work with both ingenuity and a sound monastic aesthetic of simplicity and order. In collaboration with a local builder, Walter Duda, she created an authentic monastic environment within a New England factory building. This transformation was accomplished through the lavish use of arches, the mother line as she called it and simple, warm native materials. The small community converted the loading dock to a chapel and a barn to a Novitiate and parlor area known as St. Anthony’s.
In 1964 a new cinderblock wing was added to the southwest corner of the original building. The addition provided dormitory space of ten new cells on the third floor and an expanded first floor, which as the hub of our life, houses the portress office and community common room. Every inch of the expanded basement is used by the laundry, offices, studios and a walk-in cooler. And the third floor attic has provided a large storage space. Though built over 50 years ago, we still in 2012 call it the New Wing!
These “temporary” quarters have served the community remarkably well for over 60 years, but they were built with the minimal finances available to the nuns at the time. The complex of buildings, called the lower monastery, houses the small chapel, dormitories, kitchen and refectory, common room, parlors for speaking with guests, laundry, preserving room and offices. The building materials and the utilities systems are now wearing out and the amount of space has been inadequate for many years. There is no question that the life of the community has dramatically changed in this half century, which has put entirely new demands on the space, and rendering parts of it obsolete. Accessibility and mobility for our elderly has become a pervasive and urgent problem.
Additionally, the future of our mission is in jeopardy because we currently have no suitable housing for the young women who are now asking to enter monastic life at Regina Laudis. We have been blessed with a small but vibrant and steady influx of religious vocations. We need to give these younger women who are asking to come, a place that will sustain and support them. Our chapel, refectory and dormitories are too small to accommodate new members. By increasing the dormitory space available and by making other structural changes to enlarge our refectory and chapel, we will be able to continue our mission to receive and foster new religious vocations. At the same time, the increased independence of our elders will allow us to offer the younger members of Regina Laudis a way of life in the monastery that is not immediately devoted to care of the aging, but that allows the organic development of each woman’s particular charism, or gift.
Most immediately, we had to address a mandate from the Fire Marshal to bring the third floor dormitory of our main building into compliance with the Fire Code. This crisis, left unattended, could have lead the Fire Marshal to force us to evacuate the building with no alternative housing. No aspect of our larger renovation project could proceed until this non-negotiable requirement was met.
A MASTER PLAN
Before we could undertake any one aspect of the renovations we knew we had to have a comprehensive plan, a vision for the whole lower monastery. Too often we had experienced the difficulties of growing piecemeal, adding things as they were needed in a crisis. Providentially, a first-rate architect Paul Maggi of Paul Maggi Associates was suggested by trusted Oblates Mary and Don Larson. Immediately we recognized in examples of Paul’s work monastic values that corresponded to the aesthetic we had tried to embody in a much simpler form in our church Jesu Fili Mariae: a love of wood and stone, handcrafted items wherever possible, and open light-filled spaces. Paul confirmed that our original building was well worth restoring. Because the building was in fact designed to be a factory, it has incredible structural strength with steel supports and high ceilings.
Architect Paul Maggi's Concept Drawings
By early 2012 we had made the decision to hire the Verdi Construction Company for the work of renovation and on February 6, 2012, work began with demolition of two bathrooms on the first and second floors of the original monastic building. The ongoing work has meant the displacement of many community members from their cells and work areas for months, but the exodus has been bourne with a generous spirit because the community is wholeheartedly behind the project. Verdi project managers Chris Decaro and Mark Johanning and their team carry out their work with great consideration and respect for the community, and good humor. This has been made possible under the guiding hand of Mother Lucia Kuppens, who as the Monastic Project Manager coordinates myriad details of the project—plans, budget, contracts, deadlines—with the help of the New Horizons Nucleus. For ten years, as Monastic Cellarer, responsible for provisions and facilities of the monastery, Mother Lucia experienced the day to day stress and struggles of a community trying to live in a space that could no longer contain it. The New Horizons project was her inspiration and has opened a hole in the sky for our future.
PHASE I—WORK ACCOMPLISHED
• Handicap Accessible Bathrooms:
We have completed the transformation of two existing bathrooms to beautiful new handicap accessible facilities.
• Fire Egress Staircase:
We have completed construction of the new South stair tower fire egress staircase from the 3rd floor dormitory, which was in response to a mandate from the Bethlehem Fire Marshal. Additionally, we have re-constructed an interior staircase that connects the main floor of the main monastery building with the second and third floors. We have done this to bring this staircase up to current code and to allow it to function as an additional fire egress staircase for the third floor dormitory.
• An Elevator for the Main Monastery Building:
We have completed the installation of a new ThyssenKrupp elevator to serve the main monastery building.
• Fire Sprinkler Protection System:
We have completed the installation of a Fire Sprinkler Protection System and upgraded fire alarm system for the entire main building complex.
• Construction of 4 new cells (individual sleeping rooms):
We have converted some of our third floor attic space into four new individual monastic cells, which immediately begins to address our shortage of available living space for the young women asking to enter Regina Laudis. This work entailed raising the existing roof, creating new dormers, installing new windows, and insulating for temperature and sound. Since this is attic space, we included a heating and air conditioning system (HVAC) throughout, as well as a sprinkler system. We also added a new bathroom and other plumbing and electrical upgrades as needed.
• Construction of a library extension which will connect to the future cloister walk.
BLESSING OF PHASE I
On the Feast of St. Benedict, July 11, 2013, the completed work of Phase I was blessed by our Chaplain, Father Iain Highet, and Mother Abbess. Curt Verdi, President of Verdi Construction, and members of his administrative staff as well as his on-site teams joined us for the celebration. Architect Paul Maggi and consultant Allen Ward of Cargill Construction drove from New Hampshire for the Blessing and were delighted by the excellence of the work and transformation wrought by Verdi Construction.
Father Iain blessed the new ThyssenKrupp elevator saying this prayer written especially for the occasion:
Bless O Lord, we pray, that this elevator, with all the mechanical and electrical elements that allow it to glide from the basement to the third floor, be preserved from all danger and catastrophe, and safely reach its needed destination, bringing its passengers in full equilibrium to the Work of God to which they have been assigned. And may this blessing extend to all the new spaces made accessible by this elevator and all the new systems installed for our protection and assistance. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
When Mother Abbess David cut the ribbon to the new entrance to the library extension she said a Blessing for Entrance into a New Home. Each worker was acknowledged for his craftsmanship as well as the thoughtfulness and respect for the community shown throughout the renovation process. We offered thanks for the generosity of all who contributed to the project and we pray that this blessing may extend to the homes of each and every one who has supported us.
When Christ took flesh through the Blessed Virgin Mary, he made his home with us. Let us now pray that he will enter this home and bless it with his presence. May he always be here among us; may he nurture our love for each other, share in our joys, comfort us in our sorrows. Inspired by his teachings and example may we seek to make our new home before all else a dwelling place of love, diffusing far and wide the goodness of Christ.
We would like to express our deep gratitude to the Retirement Fund for Religious for awarding us a Direct Care Assistance Grant for 2012. We thank every one who so generously contributed to this fund through their parish and for all those in the National Religious Retirement Office who work on behalf of the retired Religious in this country.
2014 LABOR DAY MATCHING GRANT GOAL REACHED!
Because of your generosity we reached our Matching Grant Goal on Labor Day. Our friends who dedicated their summer bicycle pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela to our New Horizons Renovation Project gave us their promised $75,000 because you matched their pledge. The culmination of their pilgrimage was yet another bicycle ride, this time from Hartford to Bethlehem to present their check to Mother Abbess. Mother Abbess offers her message of gratitude to them for their inspiration to dedicate their pilgrimage and to you for responding.
Our Pilgrimage to Purity of Heart—A Message from Mother Abbess David Serna O.S.B., SEPTEMBER 2014
It is really quite amazing that we were offered the gift of $75,000 if we could match it through the generosity of all of you who contributed to this challenge. It is even more amazing that this challenge came in relation to a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, that ancient place of pilgrimage which speaks to the heart of each of us on our way to God. Monastic life is rooted in pilgrimage from the time St. Anthony made his journey into the desert to seek God. His journey took him through the intricate places of his heart where he confronted himself and all those obstacles in himself which might have kept him from his goal which was union with God. His wholehearted embrace of this desert way caused it to blossom into life when many were attracted to follow him into their own desert to confront the demons in themselves and to learn the way of prayer without ceasing in order to be united to God.
The example of St. Anthony is at the heart of monastic life. Our call to 'ora et labora' which extends itself in hospitality, opening out to others, must have at its root this constant struggle with those powers which would hinder our progress to purity of heart. This pilgrimage to purity of heart is indeed arduous. It is to help us to continue this pilgrimage that you have responded and we are deeply grateful and invite you to stay with us even as we will continue to hold you in prayer.
GALLERIES OF THE NEW HORIZONS PROJECT
History of the Building
New Horizons—A Master Plan
A Winning Team
Safety and Accessibility
Transformation of 3rd Floor Attic into New Dormitory
May 2013—Renovations Bring New Color and Light to Interior and Exterior of Main Abbey Building
Completion of Phase One — Finishing Touches
Blessing of Phase One — Feast of St. Benedict, July 11, 2013
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