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Los Angeles – The wildfires that have burned approximately 40,000 acres and hundreds of homes in Southern California have also destroyed a historic Episcopal monastery set on a hill in Santa Barbara.
Nancy Bullock, guesthouse director for the Mount Calvary Monastery and Guesthouse, said because the 20,000-square-foot Spanish-style home was situated on a hill, residents could see the fire coming before it reached the monastery early Friday (Nov. 14) morning.
“We did not wait for a call from the fire department,” she said. “We evacuated before that.”
The 22 guests of the monastery were told to leave before the seven resident monks packed up the essentials. Bullock said the only painting saved was a portrait of the Virgin of Guadalupe that hung in the monastery’s chapel.
Flames destroyed an antique gold altar from South America and a 17th-century painting depicting Jesus healing a paralytic, along with nearly everything else.
Brother Robert Sevensky, superior of the Order of the Holy Cross, the religious community to which the monastery belongs, is flying to the region to access the situation.
“We have had a lot of messages of love and support … but they haven’t discerned whether or not to rebuild,” Bullock said.
The monastery’s Web site, however, which now features an image of raging flames instead of the monastery itself, quotes Sevenksy as vowing, “We will rebuild.”
The monks are temporarily staying at St. Mary’s Retreat House, an Episcopal women’s religious community also located in Santa Barbara.
Penny Hurt, retreat coordinator for St. Mary’s, said the monks have been forced to go out and shop for clothes because they have nearly nothing left.
Mount Calvary has been in operation since 1948 and is one of four monastic communities belonging to the Order of the Holy Cross. The U.S.
and Canada are home to 23 distinct Anglican religious orders in all.
Making hospitality one of its principal ministries, Mount Calvary played host to more than 2,000 visitors each year.
“When I was in a significant personal crisis, the brothers `adopted’
me, giving me a community at a time when I felt lost,” writes Diana Butler Bass, an expert on American religion and a visitor to the monastery. “They have now lost their home.”
Lilly Fowler
Religion News Service
Copyright 2008 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

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