Mother John Mary Read, CP, speaks at the groundbreaking and blessing of St. Joseph Monastery’s new renovations on Sept. 10, following her silver jubilee Mass of Thanksgiving for 25 years of Passionist consecration. Dcn. Chris Kight, a seminarian for the Diocese of Owensboro, looks on. ELIZABETH WONG BARNSTEAD | WKC
A twofold celebration: Passionists break ground for expansion; celebrate mother superior’s 25th anniversary
BY ELIZABETH WONG BARNSTEAD, THE WESTERN KENTUCKY CATHOLIC
Standing before a crowd of friends, family and supporters outside St. Joseph Monastery on Sept. 10, Mother John Mary Read, CP, attempted to hold back tears of joy in expressing her gratitude for reaching this point in her community’s Cherish the Flame renovation campaign.
“I thank you for helping us to cherish our roots and build this future,” said Mother John Mary, the mother superior of the cloistered Passionist nuns who live at the monastery in Whitesville, Ky.
Following a 2018 assessment that indicated a need to improve the living spaces and overall sustainability for the growing community, the nuns had determined that a renovation was in order. Cherish the Flame kicked off in early 2020 with a goal of $3,975,000. To date, $3,498,841 has been pledged and $3,123,914 received.
That afternoon of Sept. 10, as blue skies broke through the clouds, the nuns celebrated the official groundbreaking for the expansion project, which will add a new wing with a new community room, an exercise room, a storage room and a Chapter Room – the sacred, confidential space where nuns gather to discern and discuss important decisions.
The project will also add covered cloister walkways and improvements to the retreat house section; namely, a shaded outdoor patio, a spiritual direction room and an entrance door awning.
“We have truly been encouraged by all of you, our friends and benefactors,” said Mother John Mary. “You have a special share in our life of prayer and sacrifice as we bring Jesus to the world. We are blessed to live out our lives of consecration on your behalf.”
Those present at the groundbreaking included Bishop William F. Medley and Rick Bivins of JMJ Construction, the general contractor for the renovation.
The bishop, who walked the perimeter and blessed the construction site during the groundbreaking ceremony, commented that though the nuns might not be seen by the public on a regular basis, “their presence in this diocese is important and immeasurable. We thank God for them.”
Bivins, the founder and president of JMJ Construction, said that when they formed the construction company 28 years ago, his two eldest children suggested “JMJ” for “Jesus, Mary, Joseph.”
For years, “I wondered what those three (as in Jesus, Mary and Joseph) had in mind for JMJ,” said Bivins, a Catholic. Now, standing at St. Joseph Monastery and about to embark on this renovation, “I think I know.”
The groundbreaking was far from the only celebration that day. Earlier, the monastery had celebrated the 25th anniversary of Mother John Mary’s Passionist consecration with a special Mass presided over by her brother, Fr. Jeff Read of the Diocese of Evansville, Ind.
The homilist, Fr. Corey D. Bruns, stated that “our world needs cloistered nuns.”
“Even though your life may be hidden away from normal day-to-day… your witness is needed,” said Fr. Bruns, speaking of cloistered nuns’ quiet life of prayer interceding for the whole world. “Your answer to your baptismal call is needed.”
Speaking directly to Mother John Mary, Fr. Bruns added that “you, dear Mother, have shown us that you would ‘rather one day in his courts than a thousand elsewhere.’”
Originally printed in the October 2022 issue of The Western Kentucky Catholic.