It was announced in our Circular Letter of last December that for a variety of logistical and budgetary considerations a fundamental review of St. Gabriel's Building Project became necessary.
Circumspection – the stepping back from a proposed plan of actions to factor in new information and perspectives – is, yes, an integral part of prudence. This process has been a school in cooperation within and between the communities of the Brothers and Sisters of the Holy Cross. Is it not written, that it is only possible to love God, whom we do not see, by loving our neighbor, whom we do see (1 Jn 4:20). So is it too with our cooperation with the holy angels – we can scarcely listen to them with interior readiness before we have learned this on a human level. Planning such a project, of course, is a new experience for us all, and so not surprisingly it has been a process of sifting through initial, ideal conceptions by sobering them with the needs of the several communities (like privacy and discrete separation of the communities under the retention of optimal cooperation in our mission) and such limiting factors as the irregular terrain and finances.
On the technical side Richard Hill, our new architect, has helped considerably in drawing up plans, which, while less monumental than our original sketches, are helping us integrate the whole project into the beautiful, hilly property in Carrollton. The Monastery, the Convent, the Opus Angelorum Center and the guest house will be harmoniously situated in the landscape, whereby the irregular topography simultaneously permits proximity while safeguarding the due separation and relative seclusion befitting the several facilities. Conceptual designs and floor plans for the St. Gabriel Monastery, the Sisters' Convent, the National Opus Angelorum Center and the guest house have been maturing.
The existing residential house will be adapted and enlarged to serve in the future to offer hospitality to visiting priests, members of OA and friends of our communities. The existing sleeping quarters will be modified and expanded to offer additional private sleeping quarters with private baths situated on two levels. The design will include accommodations for physically handicapped . This will include an increase in the number of bedrooms and the creation of a worthy, permanent chapel for this house. Initially, the guest house will accommodate the community of the Canons Regular of the Holy Cross, that is, until St. Gabriel Monastery has been completed. Together with the Sisters' Convent, the revision of the guest house will be undertaken during the first building phase! This will allow the priests and brothers to relocate down to our property in Carrollton, OH as quickly as possible so as to be able to oversee the entire project on site. And, as far as the communities of brothers and sisters are concerned, we will become operational on site even before the whole complex is even half completed.
Contemporaneously the Convent for the Sisters of the Holy Cross needs to be build. In the original plan the whole center had been for a meadow on the hilltop on the eastern side of the property. That provided for considerable efficiency with respect to costs and labor, but fell short – due to its topographical limitations – with respect to wholesome living space and the due separation of communities. A long site study ensued, whereby every factor of ambience, sunshine, soil conditions, water run-off, the slope of the terrain, distance and privacy were taken into consideration. Close-coupled efforts with our architect, Richard Hill, have resulted in a very positive solution both with regards to site and design. Thus, one possible site was rejected, for example, due to poor soil drainage and the distance to the site.
Finally, it was determined that the convent for the Sisters of the Holy Cross be located approximately 100 yards slightly to the northwest of St. Gabriel Monastery and the National Opus Angelorum Center. The chosen site is in a quiet area, at the head of a meadow, facing a scenic pond with a forest for a backdrop. This location fulfills many needs: 1) Sufficient separation for privacy; 2) Provides an environment that is conducive for the manner of living of the Sisters of the Holy Cross; 3) Within reasonable proximity to the main complex which consists of the St. Gabriel Monastery, National Opus Angelorum Center, and a guest house for visitors; 4) a cost-efficient, level, healthy construction site. The proximity is necessary to allow the Sisters to fulfill duties and provide services to these areas.
Our architect has expeditiously produced a building design and floor plan that satisfies the needs of the Sisters and, at the same time, are adaptable to future demands. Planned for twelve to fourteen sisters, it is a U-shaped building covering approximately 10,400 square feet of living space. The convent is a single-floor design with a 2-story Chapel and 2-story Chapter/Library. The convent is so arranged as to offer three distinct areas of activity: the strict cloister, for the living quarters of the sisters; a restricted area for work, permitting some interaction with those on the outside, and more open, accessible areas, like the chapel and parlors for guests and those on the outside.
The design plan for the convent for the Sisters of the Holy Cross has been approved by the General Governments of the Order and the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Cross. All we need to do now is to build; but before we can build, we want to be certain that we can meet the bill.
Fr. Ludwig Maria Oppl, Superior Delegatus for the Order in the United States, hopes to begin the adaptation of the existing residential house in the fourth quarter of this year. He is confident that site preparations for the construction of the convent can begin as early as the third or fourth quarter of this year.