Duc in Altum

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Each building will have its year of construction and a motto carved into the stonework. 

MMXIX is Roman numerals for 2019. and the Nun have chosen "Duc in Altum" as the motto for the Work Rooms & Recreation Building.

It comes from Luke 5, 1-11 where Simon Peter has been fishing all night and has caught nothing;  Jesus tells him to "cast into the deep" or "draw into the depths". Reluctantly Peter obliges and the catch is miraculous.

You scrape the surface and you come away empty, you plunge the depths and the treasures astound you. The spiritual life demands this "leave your comfort zone", and to "dive into the deep end".

Week Eight Update!

This week the first floor beams were lowered into place with their ends built into the walls in beam pockets. These beams are "green" oak which will dry out in place over many years, loosing half of their weight. Now the masons will create a temporary floor over beams off which they can build the first floor walls.

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There's so much to see!

The recreation building, begun in May, is now at the first floor level. This week the framers will be installing the oak beams of the first floor.  The arches and lintels over the basement floor openings are complete. 

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The wooden forms or "falsework", seen in the windows, are arches which serve only to aid the construction and will be removed once the mortar has cured and the arches can support themselves.

The wooden forms or "falsework", seen in the windows, are arches which serve only to aid the construction and will be removed once the mortar has cured and the arches can support themselves.

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The masons have begun work on the first of two masonry heaters in the Recreation Building. These will be fueled by firewood harvested from the monastery grounds and fired periodically during the day to provide the only source of winter heating, hot water and a baking oven. 

The drystone woodshed nearby, completed last year, will be used to season the wood which needs to be dryed out for two years before it is ready to be burned.


Sign Up to Support the Nuns at the Fairfield Monastery

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The sisters are grateful for your support and the patronage of the community. They are blessed to be able to live here and continue their holy work. They are humbled by your generosity and are thankful for your support.

Many of you have asked how to contribute. We wanted to make it easy for patrons to know about our current needs. We created a sign up page that lists work items, material goods, charitable causes, and meals that are timely and would be greatly appreciated here at the monastery.

At the time of this writing, here are some of the available opportunities: Brother Deacon Thomas Mary ordination, food for nuns/seminarians, books, materials for rosaries, cleaning the farmhouse.

Check out the newest post - Permanent Items Needed by Nuns.

But give that which is within as charity, and then all things are clean for you - Luke 11:41

Keep climbing higher!

The recreation building is now nearing the tops of the windows and doors on the basement level and the masons are now working on scaffolding around the entire building.

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This massive undertaking involves the individual placement of about 100,000 stones. Some of these stones can be seen, like this 400 LB corner stone, but most are small and hidden inside the wall. Hidden but indispensable.  Masons call them "hearting stones" and they form the core strength of the wall and support the visible stones.


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The community of Faith behind this building consists of thousands of  you, the Faithful, across the US- indeed across the world- some contributing with large donations, some with small donations. Some donate  a meal to the volunteers who are washing and putting the stone on pallets. Some, hidden but indispensable, support us with a simple prayer.

All are working together, like stones in a wall, for this building of this monastery,  for the spiritual renewal of the Church, for the remaking of this world in Christ.

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Our new building construction has begun!

The Recreation Building has begun. This building will be used for many purposes like cooking and cheese making while the other monastic buildings are being built. Using only reclaimed wood and structural stone masonry, it is the largest building so far and should take approximately 12 months to finish. With minimal plumbing and no electricity, the building will be heated by wood burning stoves and have a rain water system. The plastered walls maintain a comfortable temperature, keeping the building cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Following the Discalced Carmelite way of life, only the simplest of materials - stone, sand, lime, timber and slate - will be used as far as possible.

Simplicity in all things, not pretense, is the path to holiness.



Our Lady of Paris

Our thoughts are with the Notre-Dame Cathedral, one of the most famous and enduring cathedrals in France, perhaps even all of Europe. The cathedral was begun in 1160 under Bishop Maurice de Sully and largely completed by 1260. Other additions were made later, but the main structure took 100 years to complete. The cathedral is considered to be one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture. 2013 marked the 850th anniversary of the Notre-Dame Cathedral.

The Cathedral's flèche or spire, which was destroyed by the fire, was located over the transept and altar. The spire was surrounded by copper statues of the twelve Apostles, in groups of three, one group at each point of the compass. Each of the four groups were preceded by an animal symbolising one of the four evangelists: a steer for Saint Luke, a lion for Saint Mark, an eagle for Saint John and an angel for Saint Matthew. Just days prior to the spire's collapse, all of the statues had been removed for restoration.

The Gothic cathedral was a liber pauperum, a "poor people's book", covered with sculpture vividly illustrating biblical stories. During the early days of the cathedral, the vast majority of parishioners were illiterate. The statues and imagery were used to convey Scripture before the written word was common. One notable tympanum is the illustration of the Last Judgment.

We are grateful and humbled by these religious artifacts, and the legions of faithful it has drawn nearer towards the work of Christ’s church. May the events of this week glorify the Church and bring blessings to his followers around the world.

Just as the cathedral contains timeless treasures, we are building a sanctuary here in Fairfield, Pennsylvania. We are building a simple community, but one with solid foundations. Our little village is being constructed with 14th century building techniques. These huts are being built using raw stone, carefully cut and stacked to form the four walls. These buildings will used for shelter and gatherings, with few modern amenities. Many homes and gathering places built in this way 500 years ago in Europe are still in use today. With providence, we are seeking to finish our community and create a monument that will last for ages.

Our monument is for that of a living gospel, expressed through the deeds and works of the sisters here.

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Construction At The Monastery

Construction has officially begun on the next building at the Fairfield Carmel.

Just a few days after warm weather arrived, BestLine construction equipment arrived at the site on Water Street in Fairfield and earth started to move.

Currently, the site is undergoing a new layout. Construction vehicles moving earth and stone from the site have become a common occurrence.

A HYDREMA Articulated Truck travels in and around large piles of stone, loaded by a Doosan 235 Excavator. A powerful machine, it is capable of moving as much dirt in a single scoop as a worker could dig in a full day.

Jim Baddorf of Bestline

Jim Baddorf of Bestline

Jim Baddorf of Bestline helped workmen reach construction milestones, such as advising the right machines for the job. Having the right tools are essential for meeting the challenges of the project and staying on track.

One of the major milestones will be the new Recreation and Work Rooms (Vestry). 

This construction will pose many challenges before it has been completed.

Jim said. “I’ve never witnessed anything like this before, but it will definitely be a big event.”

“It’s definitely a monumental milestone as they’re building,” he continues. “There’s always a lot of interest when that happens.”

Some four hundred loads were hauled with the Hydrema Truck over several weeks. James Asbury excavated the foundation, as William Johnson drove each load of stone and earth away, relocating the material into an immense pile elsewhere on site.

Doosan 235 Excavator loading a Hydrema truck

Doosan 235 Excavator loading a Hydrema truck

Asbury, who attended the Pennsylvania College of Technology, is the primary Operator on the site.

James Asbury

James Asbury

“I'm very pleased with Bestline, particularly the service they provide.”

Referring to locking himself out of the Large 235 Excavator early one Monday morning, he said, “most salesmen would not make a trip out to bring a key at 7am on a Monday. It was a great help”.

Soon the mud will be drying and the stones will be flying. Another milestone for the Carmel of JMJ is approaching, as this building starts to ascend toward the sky.

Soon the Vestry, with its Recreation and Work Rooms, will be ready to be put to use.

Pictures provided by Jim Hale photography. To view other photos from his collection, enter the password “carmel”.

I Would Do It Again

Ron Neil, a stonemason, about working on the monastery in Fairfield.

Ron is a builder from Massachusetts. He is one of the many capable hands working diligently on this project.

His role is that of an instructor, teaching other stonemasons with his skills and years of experience.

After meeting the Mothers, they asked him if he’d like to stay on the building project. He agreed.

When asked about working with his crew, he mentioned that they all came from different backgrounds and styles of building, yet they all came together for this.

“I would do it again”, he says matter of factly, in his baritone voice.

“I would finish my career here.”

Hear what Ron has to say in this short video…

Emerging into the Sunshine

“What could that be?”, Mass attendance joked, fingers pointing toward the bright orb in the sky. 

“Don't look at it, you may scare it”, they laughed. 

Over the treeline in the East, the sun rose higher in the once hazy skies. Frozen ground turned to mud will soon return to sweet green grass and flowers at the little convent in Fairfield. Once busy workmen plowed snows and slush away from roads before services, now could get to other tasks on the grounds. 

Patrick Lemmon and his crew spent much of the cold months inside the stone Guest Cottage, diligently working away. Now they have emerged into the sunshine like bears after a long winter’s nap. 

The Cold winds may be brutal, but the end is near. Action has begun. Ground for the next building has broken and other building and construction plans are underway. It's Spring at the Monastery. 

Like others in the world, the nuns plan a large garden. Spring plants and seedlings will soon sprout. 
The warm soil will be crawling with earthworms under the spades and plows of busy hands. The goal of the mothers is to create a sustainable farm for self sufficient produce. 

The chickens will be at it - scratching and providing eggs. There is even talk of a cow joining the little community. With so many things to do this year, the mothers would need donations of plants and seeds to establish their small farm. You can find the requests here, at the volunteer sign up page.

Growing organic produce can be a time consuming task. Chemicals and hormones added to the soil are expensive and impractical. The mothers wish to make the most of Spring in a natural way, more connected to the Earth created for us. 

Your contributions are appreciated.