Construction of a new monastery for an order of nuns in Omaha is progressing, but more funding is needed to complete the $6.3 million project, supporters say.
The monastery for the Poor Clare Sisters, an international order of cloistered Roman Catholic nuns, is being built near Mount Michael Benedictine Abbey in the Elkhorn area.
Ruth Ann Popp, who has helped raise funds for the project, said the exterior of the monastery is completed. Now the interior, including carpeting and drywall, must be finished.
An annual fundraising dinner and auction for monastery construction is scheduled for Aug. 1 at Creighton Prep High School. Additional efforts include fundraising letters that will go out in the next several months to Catholics and others in the region.
Fundraising has been challenging, Popp said, because some people don't understand why a new monastery is necessary. The order has nine sisters locally, and people have asked why a new, bigger building is needed for a small number of sisters, she said.
Popp said additional space will help the order increase its membership and enable the sisters to invite the public for prayer and retreats. The condition and location of the sisters' current home are also factors, she said.
From its earliest days in Omaha the order has received good local support, Popp said, and she hopes the Omaha community will come through again.
Businessman John A. Creighton, a founder of Creighton University, was among financial supporters when the sisters arrived in Omaha 135 years ago.
“We want to give a big push to get pledges for the sisters,'' Popp said.
The Poor Clares' mission is to pray, and the sisters frequently receive and honor prayer requests from Catholics and people of other faiths.
The Archdiocese of Omaha endorses the monastery project and provided $100,000 in funding in 2007, said Deacon Tim McNeil, chancellor of the archdiocese. He said the Poor Clares' prayer mission is important to the Catholic Church, its people and the community.
The new 34,500-square-foot monastery will include a guest area and a chapel with seating for more than 50 people, as well as a community room, dining room and kitchen.
The basement will include a multipurpose hall, kitchen and gift shop. Eighteen bedrooms will be on the second floor.
Construction started in late 2009.
Sister Theresina Santiago, superior of the local Poor Clares, said $4.1 million has been raised and put toward construction. That figure includes $1 million the sisters saved over 20 years from money donated through estates and other sources, she said.
An additional $2.2 million is needed for completion of the $6.3 million project, she said.
Santiago said the cost of the project originally was estimated at $5.2 million in 2007.
Popp said that because fundraising has taken longer than expected, parts of project had to be rebid, resulting in the higher cost.
The sisters since 1971 have lived in a convent in central Omaha that formerly housed nuns who taught at St. Bernard Catholic School.
Santiago said the convent doesn't allow the women to live the cloistered lives of their vows. It is near busy, four-lane Military Avenue, and it needs repairs, including an upgraded heating system, she said.
Santiago said younger women want to join the order, but space is limited. Half the local Poor Clares are more than 70 years old, and new members are needed to keep the order alive, she said.
One new sister joined the order this month. Two others want to spend time with the Poor Clares to discern whether they should join, but there is no room for them to stay at the convent.
Santiago said the new monastery will be more than a place for nuns. The large chapel will enable the sisters to invite the public for Mass.
Parts of the monastery will be available for overnight retreats for individuals and daytime retreats for groups, including high school students.
The monastery would be used for conferences and training for Poor Clare sisters from across the United States, she said.
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