Tuesday, September 8, 2015

St. Simeon Residences

 Encore Priests

Conceptual drawing of new entry way into the St. Simeon Residences 

My last program to create, before retiring as Director of the Institute for Priests and Presbyterates, was a program to address the fact that 50% of all priests in the United States will be retiring by 2020. This program was envisioned to help retiring priests stay active in ministry by doing things they have always wanted to do, but never got the chance to do them - maybe even doing some things they never imagined doing. I named this program  Encore Priests.

With the help of my good friends, Patricia Tafel Kirchdorfer and my go-to interior designer of choice, Timothy Schoenbachler, spaces were funded and designed to house retired priests who wanted training for new ministries in retirement. This housing area shares the same floor with the St. John Vianney Life Skills Center and a double classroom. The floor below houses the offices of the Institute for Priests and Presbyterates and a beautiful chapel. St. Simeon Residences is named after St. Simeon the old man who met the child Jesus when he was brought to the Temple by Mary and Joseph.

Bede Hall had just recently undergone a major renovation. The upper floors where guestrooms are now located were basically gutted, new walls were built and things like plumbing, electrical, windows were updated. While this brought the old building into the 21st century the budget did not allow for much in the way of making the guest room areas “warm and inviting.”

It was a dream of mine to dedicate one floor of guest rooms in the newly rehabbed Bede Hall for use by visiting priests attending Encore Priest and other continuing education programs. For longer-term stay, I wanted them to have accommodations that were comfortable and pleasing - far from what existed. I envisioned rooms and hallways that made them feel like they were staying in a nice hotel with some simple amenities.

Thanks to a generous gift by Patricia Kirchdorfer my dream became a reality. She made her gift in memory of her father, Paul Tafel, who was baptised as a convert by his friend Archabbot Ignatius Esser OSB. Bede Hall, coincidently, was the last building constructed while Archabbot Ignatius was abbot. 

Patricia Tafel Kirchdorfer (daughter) and Paul Tafel (father)   
With her gift, Saint Meinrad agreed to let us renovate a floor and dedicate it especially for long-term use by visiting clergy. As in all projects there were limitations - budget, fire codes and various Meinrad restrictions.

With the help of Tim Schoenbachler, my go-to interior designer, we were able to create guest rooms and hallways that are a remarkable transformation. The before and after photos below show the dramatic change. These renovated guest rooms were dedicated on March 7, 2015.

ABOVE: Before our renovation. A typical hallway in Bede Hall had white walls, dropped in ceiling, stark white LED lighting and terrazzo floor.
BELOW: After the renovation. A wood chair rail breaks up the wall with deep beige below and light beige above. Wood crown molding and cross beams are used to break up the ceiling and make the hallway seem less cavernous and long. It also helps to make the dropped-in ceiling look less conspicuous. Library tables with lamps, plants and art also break up the space and give it some life.

BELOW: typical guestrooms before our renovation. The guest rooms were, to put it simply, spartan - white walls, twin beds, a pull-out sleeper, a small desk and a crucifix on the wall. Room furniture was maximized for occupancy when used for youth programs - a 10 x 12 space that could sleep three.
BELOW: Two of the renovated rooms. The guest rooms now have a queen size bed with a headboard, window drapes, a comfortable lounge chair, a TV and small fridge chest, a desk and desk chair, a chest of drawers, several lamps and art for the walls. Walls are painted in a warm beige with a darker accent wall. 

BELOW: Father Knott gives the donor, Mrs. Patricia Kirchdorfer and 
her daughter, Anne, their first tour. To say they were delighted, would be to put it mildly.

Her dedication speech is available here.

St. Simeon Residences Dedication
Patricia Kirchdorfer
This is a very happy day for me. After months of planning, we are finally here to dedicate this wonderful space in honor of my father, Paul Tafel. 
Some of you know, but some of you may not know, of my father’s connection to this historic place. 
My father became friends with Archabbot Esser through his business connections to the Tafel Electric Company. Because of that friendship, he became interested in becoming a Catholic himself. Archabbot Esser then assigned Father Bernardine Shine to give my father instructions, but reserved the right himself to perform the baptism. His joining the Church pleased my mother immensely.

Our connection to Saint Meinrad continued over the years, especially through Father John Thuis , a regular visitor to our home in Louisville.

My connection to Saint Meinrad was renewed when I met, and because close friends with, Father Knott. During our friendship, he has kept me informed of his programs. I helped him in small ways with his interest in helping international seminarians with their needs. I was deeply honored when he established and endowment to help missionary priests come to Saint Meinrad to attend the mini-sabbatical program, funding it from his many priest retreats around the country.

I became especially engaged with his unique and creative retired priest program, ENCORE PRIESTS. I consider him a true visionary. My decision to get involved in a more intense way was triggered by a column he wrote last year, about this time, that concluded with the remark that he needed to win to lottery to build the spaces appropriate for older priest programs. I called him up immediately and said, “Congratulations! You have just won the lottery! I want to help build those spaces for the senior priest programs!” The rest is history!

Father Knott has told me over and over again just how much this program is going to help older priests stay engaged in creative new ministries – for their good and the good of the whole Church. Now, let me tell you how much this means to me personally. It is an honor to be a part of such an imaginative and future oriented idea – an idea whose time has come! Thank you for allowing me to be part of this! It has, as they say, “made my day!”