HULBERT, Okla. – With a crisp spring breeze in the air, more than 175 volunteers from throughout the southwestern United States came together March 10 to assist the Benedictine monks of Our Lady of Clear Creek Monastery near Hulbert in northeastern Oklahoma.
The effort, which was organized by Tulsan Dan Doyle, assisted the monks with a number of construction and maintenance duties on the 1,050-acre ranch where they are building a monastery near Hulbert. When completed, the 70,000-square-foot monastery – including the monks’ residence and church – will cost an estimated $32 million.
Father Philip Anderson, prior, said the monks appreciate the support of the volunteers, who have staged the workday for the past five years.
“We are grateful for the help that the volunteers provide. I truly believe the effort is part of the grace that is manifested by the monastic life,” he said. “The workers will do in a day what it takes our monks more than a year to do.”
Doyle credited the prayers of the monks for playing a large part in the 70-degree weather the workers enjoyed.
“We had rain yesterday, and it is supposed to rain tomorrow, but the weather today is perfect,” he said. “I asked the monks to pray for good weather, so it looks like they have done their job.”
He also was pleased by the turnout of 175-plus volunteers. “We have 20 miles of perimeter fence to clean, and we have 10 workers building five steel sheds for the monks, so we could have used more. But I am not disappointed in the turnout. I am thankful for everyone who came out to help.”
The volunteers included groups from Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Texas, as well as Minnesota and New Mexico. The labor pool also included University of Oklahoma exchange students from France and South Korea and from Bishop Kelley High School, the diocesan high school in Tulsa.
The Clear Creek monastery’s motherhouse is located in Fontgombault, France, where since the 11th century it has carried out its mission of preserving the Gregorian chant.
That is the primary focus of the monks’ lives at Clear Creek, along with tending the agriculture and livestock that help them sustain their work.
The original 12 monks came to Oklahoma from the Abbey of Our Lady of Fontgombault in 1999 at the invitation of Tulsa Bishop Edward J. Slattery.
Currently there are 26 monks residing at Clear Creek, and vocations are growing.
The crypt church is complete, and construction has begun on the residence portion of the monastery.
On the March 10 workday, the volunteers joined the monks for all or part of their daily routine, which includes 6:40 a.m. Mass (attended by some volunteers who spent the previous night at Clear Creek) and 6 p.m. vespers.
Some also attended a 10 a.m. high Mass the next morning.
Severe ice storms that hammered most of Oklahoma in January knocked out power at Clear Creek for about a week and a half, both at the monastery and at the convent of the Benedictine Oblate Sisters who also live there.
The Lenten workday is an annual event, and there always is plenty of work for the volunteers to take on, but this year they also helped clean up the damage inflicted by the winter blast.