Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Incredibly good news for the Abbey and the community

Mass to resume at flood-ravaged St. Joseph Abbey Sunday

The St. Joseph Abbey Church near Covington is surrounded by floodwater from teh Bogue Falaya River after storms that raked the North Shore on March 11, 2016. (Photo courtesy of St. Joseph Abbey)
Kim Chatelain, | The Times-Picayune By Kim Chatelain, | The Times-Picayune The Times-Picayune
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on June 14, 2016 at 5:48 PM, updated June 14, 2016 at 6:09 PM
For the first time since the March flood, Mass will be said Sunday (June 19) at the historic St. Joseph Abbey church north of Covington. The 7:30 a.m. Mass will be followed by a coffee reception in front of the adjacent monastery.
The acclaimed church, a Romanesque-style structure that is on the National Register of Historic Places, is one of the 31 buildings on the campus of St. Joseph Abbey and Seminary College that were damaged when the nearby Bogue Falaya River overflowed its banks on March 11. The church and most other buildings on the property have been closed to the public since the flood, which officials said caused about $30 million worth of damage on the 1,200-acre campus.
St. Joseph Abbey needs $30 million to restore campus
Abbey had no flood insurance but is in the process of acquiring coverage

While the church itself did not flood, the basement took on several feet of water, destroying electrical and air conditioning systems and causing abbey leaders to close it to the public. Calling it the "heart of our lives here," Abbot Justin Brown said the absence of the vaunted church has taken a toll on the monastic community.
"You sometimes take for granted that we readily have access to this beautiful, peaceful church. Not until it's missing from your daily life, do you realize how much it means to not only us, but also the community at large," Brown said in a statement posted on the abbey Facebook page. "The many inquiries I receive asking when it will reopen are a testament to the passion parishioners have for the abbey church. Having it back will be like having our hearts back."
Apart from the church and the cemetery, the grounds of the Abbey remain closed to the public, including the gift shop and Christian Life Center. Officials have not announced when other parts of the campus will reopen.
All of the main buildings at the abbey took on up to 2½ feet of water on March 11 when water from the Bogue Falaya River began to rise rapidly and inundated the campus in St. Benedict. The flood caused major damage throughout western St. Tammany Parish.
Brown said the cleanup and remediation phases of the restoration effort have been completed. Most of the damage was done to walls and floors of the buildings, some of which are historic.
Having not flooded since the great Mississippi River Valley flood of 1927, the abbey did not have flood insurance. Brown said the process to acquire flood insurance is underway.
He said he hopes FEMA will help cover some of the $30 million in estimated repair costs. Since part of the abbey is considered an educational institution, the campus may be eligible for some federal help. But even if the help comes through, Brown estimates at least $10 million will have to be raised through private donations.
The abbey is accepting donations through its website.

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