By Kevin Kelly
Catholic Key Associate Editor
CLYDE — No big deal.
“It’s just stuff,” Benedictine Sister Sean Douglas said as she surveyed damage and the continuing cleanup Aug. 24, six days after a hail storm ravaged the monastery of the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration.
Prioress of the community, Sister Sean said the sudden storm caused tens of thousands of dollars in damage, including the severe damage or destruction to nearly a dozen of the monastery’s century-old Austrian stained glass windows.
The storm which roared in from the north also shattered 114 windows, snapped several trees, and destroyed the meticulous landscaping on the monastery grounds.
It also set back construction on the monastery’s “Sacred Stones, Sacred Stories,” renovation project, timed to celebrate the monastery’s 100th anniversary.
But no one was hurt.
Everyone was able to move to safety, including the elderly sisters at Our Lady of Rickenbach home on the monastery grounds, through the vigilance and diligence of the nursing staff, Sister Sean said.
And that was the big deal, the only thing that really mattered, she said.
“Nobody got hurt. After that, it’s just stuff we can replace. You can’t replace people,” Sister Sean said.
Nearly all of the loss is insured, Sister Sean said. But the sisters were still scrambling to cover the $10,000 deductible with their major renovation project underway.
They immediately sent out an appeal, and people responded almost as quickly. Some donations came over the Internet the next morning, and by the following Monday checks were arriving in the mail, said Kelley Baldwin, the monastery’s communication director.
Three miles to the southwest, Conception Abbey and Conception Seminary College also sustained heavy damage from the storm. More than 100 windows were shattered, but there was no major damage to the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception.
Freshman and sophomores new to the seminary reported just the day before the storm, said Jenny Huard, the abbey’s communications director. They were pressed into service for the cleanup.
Power was knocked out for the next two days at both locations, but backup generators kept the Clyde monastery and the seminary running without skipping a beat.
As of Aug. 29, there was still no solid estimate of all the damage done to the monastery, Sister Sean said.
Insurance adjusters and contractors were still poring over the property, checking the seams in the monastery’s copper roof, assessing the wind and water damage in the new construction project, and seeing which of the damaged stained glass windows can be saved.
“Some of these windows are 100 years old,” Sister Sean said. She did discover that the famous Tyrolese Art Glass Co., of Innsbruck, Austria, that created the windows is still in business in Germany, and she has already contacted them.
The cleanup will take weeks, Sister Sean said, and nothing will go to waste.
For two days, Benedictine Sisters from Mount St. Scholastica in Atchison, Kan., helped pick up the broken glass, carefully saving the pieces of stained glass for possible restoration.
And the morning after the storm, neighbors showed up with rakes and leaf blowers to clear the grounds.
Sister Sean looked at a huge, uprooted spruce tree not far from the entrance of their altar bread bakery and saw lumber.
“We’ll take this to our saw mill, square it off, section it out in 10-foot pieces to dry out, then we will cut it into lumber,” she said.
It is the Benedictine way, she said. Even during the renovation project, one wing of the monastery was to be “de-constructed.” Not torn down or demolished. “De-constructed.”
“We’re recycling the floor boards, nails, everything we can,” she said.
Sister Sean said the sisters had been closely monitoring the weather all day, and when a line of severe storms reached Omaha at 6 p.m., she turned on her police scanner at Our Lady of Rickenbach home to listen to Nodaway County weather spotters nearby.
It took only about 90 minutes for the storm system to travel from Omaha, some 120 miles away, she said.
Hail began pounding when Sister Sean rushed into the hallway and yelled, “Take cover.”
Nurses immediately moved the elderly into interior hallways just seconds before windows began to shatter and broken glass began to fly.
“We had 100 mile-an-hour winds and quarter-sized hail,” Sister Sean said. “It was blowing so hard, the hail was coming in horizontally. We could hear all this crashing of glass all around us. I had never seen or heard anything like it.”
The storm also blew off a protective louver that had been bolted into stone on the monastery’s bell tower. But Sister Sean said it didn’t appear that any of the bronze bells, the largest weighing a full ton, sustained damage.
The sisters will continue to ring those bells on the hour, Sister Sean. They are going nowhere, and they will continue to welcome guests as if they were Christ, according to the Benedictine rule.
Meanwhile, the sisters continue to feel the love and generosity of people and return the prayers they know they are receiving.
In fact, Sister Sean said that as soon as their storm was over, they prayed for the people of Joplin, Mo., who are continuing to recover from the May 22 tornado that killed 159 people.
“This was nothing compared to Joplin,” she said.
They also prayed for people on the East Coast in the path of Hurricane Irene Aug. 27-28, and the next day, prayed for the people of the Gulf Coast on the sixth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, as their own clean-up continued.
Donations to either the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration’s storm clean-up fund, or to their “Sacred Stones, Sacred Stories” improvements campaign can be made online at www.clydemonastery.org. Checks for the Benedictine Sisters can be mailed to the Monastery of Perpetual Adoration, 31970 State Highway P, Clyde, MO 64432-8100.