Sunlight reveals major flood damage to St. Ben’s
When the sun came out last week – revealing, perhaps, even a few olive branches following the historic northshore flooding March 11-12 – the damage was easy to spot at St. Joseph Abbey and Seminary College.
Floodwater entered every building on the expansive abbey campus except for elevated St. Pius X Hall and the abbey church.
But even though the body of the church was spared, the water destroyed all mechanical systems supplying air conditioning and heating, forcing the Benedictine monks to close the church until further notice.
Cleanup will be $3 million
The cleanup alone, before any reconstruction, is estimated to be $3 million, said Benedictine Abbot Justin Brown. The reconstruction of buildings figures to run much higher.
“We haven’t gotten to that point yet,” Abbot Justin said.
The priority since the flood has been to get the seminary college back up and running. The college hopes to resume regular classes on March 29, the Tuesday after Easter.
The class schedule has been adjusted to finish the school year on time.
All daily Masses have been canceled until further notice. The liturgically robust Holy Week services that have been a trademark of the abbey for decades were also canceled, meaning about 18 Benedictine monks were scheduled to celebrate Holy Week at nearby St. Benedict Church.
“We’re continuing to do the liturgy of the Divine Office inside the monastery,” Abbot Justin said.
Work removing flooring and water-soaked drywall from Borromeo Hall, the seminary’s main classroom building, is going well, as are repairs to St. John Vianney Hall, a main seminarian dormitory, Abbot Justin said.
Also, St. Joseph Abbey Woodworks, which produces cypress caskets and has been a source of new income for the monks, may be ready to get back into action within the next week or two.
“The main push has been to get the school ready to begin classes again. “We’re also looking at the humidity control in the church and refectory to make sure the murals (by Benedictine Dom Gregory de Wit) are OK.”
Monk Run, a 5K fun run and walk scheduled for April 23 on the abbey grounds, has been canceled.
Homecoming, scheduled for April 1, will move to Mary Queen of Peace Church in Mandeville.
To donate to the recovery, go to helptheabbey.com.