The Deacon's Bench

It’s not everyday that you read about a new monastery being built, from scratch, in the United States.

But that’s exactly what’s happening with a hardy and devout group of Benedictines in Oklahoma:

Benedictine monks will transform 75 large oak trees felled on the property of their monastery near Hulbert into large beams for their cloister and into doors for their residence and gatehouse.

Construction on the Monastery of Our Lady of the Annunciation of Clear Creek began in 2004. The first building phase cost an estimated $4.5 million and consisted of the crypt and basement of what will be the church.

Phase two of construction is expected to cost $12 million. It began in November 2006 and is scheduled for completion in December of this year. It includes a four-story residence, or cloister, for the monks and the gatehouse, which will serve as a point of contact when visitors come to pray at the monastery.

With their massive walls and their huge concrete pillars sunk deep into the Oklahoma bedrock, it is clear that both the cloister and the crypt that will support the monastery’s future church are meant to last.

The Benedictine community arrived from Fontgombault, France, in 1999 at the invitation of Bishop Edward J. Slattery of Tulsa, Okla. The 26 monks at Clear Creek have been using an original log house on their property as their kitchen and refectory, while they live and pray in several large metal buildings erected since their arrival.

On Sept. 2 Abbot Antoine Forgeot from Fontgombault celebrated Mass with the monks of Clear Creek. It was attended by about 200 of the faithful, who came from across the Diocese of Tulsa and from the surrounding region to see how quickly work is progressing.

In an effort to cut costs, much of the finishing work on the monastery will be completed by the monks themselves, which is expected to delay occupancy until early 2008.

Funding for the building project comes from financing, private donations and the support of the monks’ motherhouse in France.

It’s a remarkable project, and a real testament of faith.

Visit the Clear Creek website to see more of what the monks are up to, and check out their plans for the monastery.

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