Little Portion celebrates completion of new monastery church

Friday, October 8, 2010
The new church, cloister and common area are now complete at Little Portion Monastery except for a little landscaping. They rose from the ashes after a fire during the night in 2008 destroyed the buildings.

EUREKA SPRINGS -- The Brothers and Sisters of Charity at Little Portion Monastery celebrated an open house and ribbon cutting for their new monastery church, common center and cloister on Oct. 2 with a nod to several civic organizations.

The community's leader, Br. John Michael Talbot, said there could be "an appropriate interchange of church and state to make this a better world" as he welcomed three members of American Legion Post 9 of Eureka Springs, who posted a new American flag at the monastery church door.

State representative Bryan King also spoke briefly to the crowd of about 200. "I first heard about Little Portion in D. C.," he said. "It's a blessing to have them in Carroll County. The solution to our problems is not politicians, it's people doing things for Christ. What you people do here is part of the answer."

Br. John Michael Tablot welcomed everyone to an open house and ribbon cutting ceremony at Little Portion Monastery last Saturday. Photos by C.D. White

Br. Talbot told the crowd he discovered in his music ministry tours across America people seemed downcast. "People don't know whether to drink coffee or tea these days. We bring water. You have to have that first to make either one.

"We bring hope and love," he said. "This nation does not work without faith, believers and patriots."

Bishop Anthony Taylor of the Diocese of Little Rock also shared brief comments and blessed the site, having consecrated the church at an earlier date.

Mentioning that the day was the Feast of the Guardian Angels on the Roman Catholic Liturgical calendar, Talbot recounted the heroic efforts of the "guardian angels" of four area fire departments when the community's church and common center burned to the ground during the night of April 28, 2008.

"These firemen put their lives on the line," he said. "When the fire was in danger of jumping to our big gas tank, they stood fast and said, 'it'll have to go through us.'"

Representatives from all responding fire departments were invited to the event, but only members of the Holiday Island and Berryville fire departments were on hand to receive the cheers and applause of the crowd.

"We rise to truly new beginnings," said Talbot, "and I would add ... up from the ashes."

Talbot expressed thanks to a community that "opened up its heart" after the fire, acknowledging donations of goods and offers of places to sleep.

Thanks to discounts on purchases locally and two years of national fundraising, the Little Portion community was able to accomplish the rebuilding project this year.

Architect Albert Skiles explained how the 14,000 sq. foot building was patterned after Franciscan missions in California but was also built to be green, sporting a shiny metal roof instead of tiles.

"Our only chance to beat the $2.3 million budget was if we did it without flooring," Skiles later said. The answer was to use concrete and stain it.

The walls were constructed with isolated concrete forms (ICFs) made of styrofoam so that concrete never touches the ground, giving the enormous building the same R rating as an underground house.

"My one chance to be really creative was in the beams of the chapel," Skiles said. "I wanted to create a strong sense of shelter, but I wasn't sure the design would work. I took it to structural engineer Bill Hathaway, who assured me it would. He deserves a lot of credit."

In addition to Skiles, of Skiles Architect, PA, and Daniel Dean, consulting architect, the team responsible for the final structure included contractor Dan Minkel, Calamon Building Corporation; structural engineer William Hathaway; electrical and mechanical engineer Tim Geary; and civil engineer Mandy Bunch.

Br. Talbot extended a warm invitation to the public at the end of his comments. "This is your house, too," he said, "and you are welcome to come and pray."

The Brothers and Sisters of Charity is considered a Public Association of the Faithful by the Roman Catholic Church. In addition to John Michael and his wife, Viola, there are four celibate sisters and one celibate brother living on the property.

The extended community includes Domestic Brothers and Sisters from around the world. These are married or single people living in their own homes. There are about 25 living in the Eureka Springs area.

One hundred Domestics and 64 of their children from around the U. S. and two other countries attended the open house.

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