2014 Polar Vortex Visits Passionist Nuns
That’s right…last week we were visited by the Polar Vortex! Three Chroniclers (Mother, Sr. Mary Veronica and Sr. Rose Marie) have shared their blow-by-blow accounts with me and I have combined them for you below. Forgive me if the details don’t all match up. I am about to go cross-eyed trying to keep all the details in order…
Friday and Saturday, January 3rd and 4th
Temperatures dipped below 0 degrees; five heat pumps in chapel gave way from being overloaded. Temperature was down to 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Our maintenance man was able to get three of them working, temperature back up to about 65 degrees Saturday in time for Vespers I of Epiphany.
Elizabeth and family arrive.
Sunday, January 5th
Solemnity of Epiphany – Elizabeth officially enters the monastery today. The good Lord allowed us to have heat long enough to celebrate the Epiphany in chapel The temperatures outside have been below 0 degrees so we are wearing coats and hats for Mass. It is about 55 degrees in chapel. We have set up the parlor to have Mass in there Wednesday.
Monday, January 6th
The heat pumps are struggling again. This evening the temperature dropped down to -6 degrees.
Tuesday, January 7th
In the wee hours of the morning five of the heat pumps in our chapel tucker out, not being able to keep up with the cold. By the time most of us get up, it’s 55 degrees in our chapel. Mother instructs the nuns to dress warm for Mass. Nuns show up for Mass in shawls, coats and scarves.
After Mass we move back into parlor for Mass and Divine Office.
During the noon recreation later in the day, Mother Catherine Marie takes Postulant Elizabeth down to chapel to show her a few things on our organ. Elizabeth notices the sound of dripping water. Within 10 minutes there are several streams of water pouring from the ceiling of the ambulatory on the guest’s side of our chapel as the ceiling tiles melt into an oatmeal-like texture and fall onto the floor, closely missing the heads of the bewildered nuns gathered below who are scrambling around with rags and mops, not quite knowing what to do. Meanwhile, water continues to pour down from above and pink insulation saturated with water sags down from the tile frames and lets down more streams of water.
Sr. Mary Veronica gets a ladder to begin removing ceiling tiles before they disintegrate, fall and bust into a splashy, gloppy mess on the floor. She braves at close range the streams coming down from the pipes above. Her glasses are dripping. She has pieces of dissolved ceiling tile on her habit, which is being spattered with water from above. I ask if she wants an apron. She smiles and chuckles… “Not much use!” Alas, too late!
Within five more minutes, every rag in the monastery is on the chapel floor as water continues to drain down, showing no signs of letting up. There are now about 8 mops at hand which are all sopping wet. About 15 buckets and tubs of various sizes are arranges beneath the deluge. Nuns are pushing water around the floor with saturated mops and attempt to form dams to contain the water so it doesn’t move through the pew area and damage the wood.
Five minutes later, a wet-vac is introduced onto the scene. And a ‘sprinkler man’ arrives. The first words out of the first man to show up when he saw us was a sigh and “I hate to see you all with this.” He made preliminary investigations, looking for where the cold air is getting in. He found some totally frozen pipes a little farther down and said we had been spared a royal mess, I guess we only had a grand mess. Later more men arrive to work on the sprinkler system and pull large icicles out of the pipes.
The water to the sprinkler system is shut off, and over a period of about 20 minutes, the water-flow slows down to a more acceptable flow. Within an hour the dripping has almost ceased and Mother has nearly completed wet-vac-ing the floor.
Three tubs of saturated rags and 2 heaping wheelbarrows of saturated ceiling tile-mush and insulation are carted out of chapel.
Just when we think everything is under control, Steve, our maintenance man comes running, informing us that the basement is flooded with 3 to 4 inches of water.
We walk down to the basement and stare, shocked, at the liquid floor. Our mechanical/electrical pumps and panels are located in the basement—Not safe to walk in this water. Not much we can do except call the plumber. By this time it’s already late in the afternoon. Plumber arrives. Nothing much he can do till tomorrow. Diagnosis: “we need a bigger sump pump.”
By the time this photo is taken the water has been slowly receding for about 4 hours. Thank the Lord all these chapel heat pumps are elevated
on concrete pads!
At the end of the day, the chapel temperature remains frigid, even more so with the gaping holes in the ceiling on the guest’s side of the chapel where the melted tiles have fallen from. It’s very drafty and also rather dark, so that one has the sense of being in a cave. Poor Jesus! He’s safe in the tabernacle, but His house is cold and somewhat a mess. We would like to be able to stay in here with him in this ‘desolate place’. We bring Jesus into the parlor where we recite Evening Prayer and adore Him in the Blessed Sacrament, all of us wondering, perhaps, ‘Lord, what are you up to?’, and offering Him the whirlwind of the day along with all the events that transpired united to His Holy Cross and Passion for whatever intention He has in mind. We’re praying that none of our other pipes break in the night.
We had Kathy Stiff’s canned home-grown green beans for lunch today. She label the lids of her cans with the letters A.M.D.G.—“All for the greater glory of God” in Latin. Amen. Alleluia!
P.S. This was Elizabeth’s second full day as a postulant!
Wednesday, January 8th
This evening during prayer the Simplex warning system went off. It was disabled but then shortly thereafter Mother looked out the front entrance door to see a deluge of water and thought we must be having quite a storm. Come to find out another sprinkler pipe broke. Thanks be to God it was outdoors and only a little came in under the door. The repairmen were still here working on yesterday’s water sprinkler problems so they immediately cut into the wall over the door looking for the break in the pipe.
During supper Mother asked for volunteers to check every sprinkler head in the monastery and guest house. The different areas were divided up amongst the sisters and we were sent out. No one found any leaks.
We were all joking with postulant Elizabeth – her first letter to her family will be a dilly: “Hey, Mom and Dad, guess what happened on my 2nd and 3rd day in the monastery….!
Sunday, January 12th
Heat pumps working again – celebrated the Liturgy of the Baptism of the Lord in chapel.
Tuesday, January 14th
Feast day Tea Party for the Novice Directress!
(I had to get this photo in this blog post somehow!)
Wednesday, January 15th
Moved back out of chapel as contractors will arrive by 7 a.m. sharp tomorrow morning to begin repairs.
Thursday, January 16th
Contractors find areas where the caulking and sealing of concrete blocks, etc. had not been done properly and had let in cold air causing the pipes to freeze during last week’s polar vortex.
Our Nuns in Erlanger, KY, after hearing of our woes, send us six loaves of homemade yeast bread. May God reward them! Delicious!
Friday, January 17th
Quick clean up and move back into chapel after None and Chaplet of Divine Mercy. A group of men here on retreat this weekend led by a Father of Mercy…
It snowed today! This Floridian doesn’t mind.