Construction crews from Creative Contractors Inc., are busily erecting the future home of the Benedictine Sisters of Florida. They are building the new Holy Name Monastery on the south side of State Road 52 near Wichers Road. The project includes a chapel, private living quarters with 20 bedrooms, a library to house archives and spiritual books, and meeting spaces for large and small groups.
The funds for the new monastery are coming from $3.4 million in proceeds from the sale of the current monastery and land to Saint Leo University, as well as a $500,000 capital campaign. So far, the capital campaign has raised slightly less than $175,000, which includes a $100,000 one-to-one match challenge grant. The sisters must raise $100,000 by June 30 to receive that grant.
The building, which was designed by Klar & Klar Architects, is well under way.
It’s possible that the sisters may move in as early as this summer, said Sister Roberta Bailey, prioress of the Benedictine Sisters of Florida.
The sisters are leaving a massive multi-story structure where they have lived since 1960. That structure has become too large for the sisters and too expensive to operate, maintain and renovate.
The sisters are celebrating their 125th anniversary of living and working in Pasco County.
The original quartet of sisters traveled from Elk County, Pa., to San Antonio, arriving there on Feb. 28, 1889. Another sister joined them a few months later.
“They were called down to be teachers of the children of the German immigrants,” Bailey said.
When they arrived in San Antonio, they lived in a three-story wooden hotel. A team of oxen moved that building in 1911 to the current monastery’s site, west of Saint Leo University.
After arriving, the sisters went straight to work.
By March 11, 1889, the sisters had assumed the administration and staffing of Saint Anthony School. A short time later they began to staff the school in St. Joseph and also opened Holy Name Academy.
The sisters opened St. Benedict’s Preparatory School for young boys in 1920, and that school operated until 1959. Holy Name Academy closed five years later. Both were boarding schools.
After they closed, the sisters directed their energies toward providing services for nearby Saint Leo College.
Over the years, the sisters have had a hand in many organizations.
They have served on boards for such charitable organizations as Sunrise Spouse Abuse Shelter, Saint Leo University Haitian Mission Project, Florida Association for the Education of Young Children, Catholic Charities, Coalition for the Homeless, Hospice, Habitat for Humanity and DayStar Hope Thrift Store and Food Pantry.
They have been town mayors and commissioners. And, they continue to have a hand in a variety of good works.
For instance, they provide a Thanksgiving meal to more than 200 people each year. They also give annual scholarship assistance to a few Saint Leo University students. They open their home to provide lodging and meals for religious women from developing countries who are pursuing their degrees.
The size of the religious community has gone from more than 60 sisters at one point to 13 sisters now, but they continue to play an active role, both in community life and spiritual support.
“We try to respond to what the needs are in the local area. It’s just that right now we’re so few that everyone wears many hats,” Bailey said.
They also call upon the power of prayer to help others in need. Anyone can call with any kind of prayer request, Bailey said, noting the requests often mirror what’s happening in society at large.
A parent might call with a prayer request for a child, or someone who is ill or injured may call in with a request, Bailey said. There are others who are going through a crisis of faith and ask for prayer to help them through it.
Sometimes, it’s a practical request, she said.
“Someone may call in, ‘I have a big test this afternoon, can you pray?’” Bailey said. “We have a book of prayer intentions that sits outside the chapel doors.” Whenever a sister passes by, she looks at the book and says a prayer for the people who have called in their intentions.
Despite their long history in Pasco County, the sisters’ work is not yet done, Bailey said.
“We’ve been here a good long time and we’re here to stay,” Bailey said.
To learn more about the Benedictine Sisters of Florida, visit BenedictineSistersOfFl.org, or call (352) 588-8320.
Published March 5, 2014
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