After two years of cleaning, organizing, moving, unpacking and packing, you would think I had seen it all.
But I hadn’t.
Yesterday, Tyler Ottinger, a designer at OSV dropped me a note and attached a photo – one that I’d never seen before.
The photo was taken at St. Felix Friary in Huntington in 2005. The Capuchin friary was built in 1928. Fr. Solanus Casey was there for a time, and Fr. Benedict Groeschel served his – (I think) – novitiate there. The friary shut down and was sold to a group associated with the United Brethren Church in 1978, but just last year was sold again, to a foundation with Catholic connections which is in the process of renovating the property so that it can be used as a retreat center.
A group of brothers visited the friary late last month and returned furnishings that had been scattered throughout the building to their proper places.
Huge tables, built by the brothers who once lived in the friary, were located and returned to the dining hall.
“It looks like it looked 50 or 60 years ago,” Rieder says. “It’s just beautiful. There’s not a nail in the whole table, but they weigh a ton.”
The friars, Wharton says, were self-sufficient – they made their own furniture as well as their own clothing; they grew their own fruits and vegetables; and they had their own vineyard.
While the building is showing its years – it was built in 1928 – Wharton and Rieder both say it’s in good shape.
“The Brethren took good care of the building,” Rieder says. “They kept one room as a shrine to Father Solanus Casey. I admire them for doing that.”
The room is locked, but its contents are easily visible through a window in the door. A brown robe lies on the small bed, and an old-fashioned rotary telephone sits on an unadorned desk.
Overgrown brush and 120 dead trees have been removed from the grounds. Under the direction of Fort Wayne contractor Bob Rowlett, stone fences and a shrine to the Virgin Mary have been restored. The roof has been repaired, new windows will be installed and the old brick building will be tuck-pointed. Inside, volunteers are painting and plumbing problems are being corrected. The heating system will be improved, but air conditioning isn’t in the cards, Mayo said. Many visitors want to feel what Casey and other residents felt, even the occasional discomfort. Other historic features will remain as well, including wooden latches in place of many doorknobs and steel pull-down fire doors – unusual in a building of that era.
As built, St. Felix had room for 120 residents – most doubled up in small rooms with barely enough room for two twin beds and a dresser. The United Brethren reduced the number of rooms by knocking out some walls, but otherwise the place is mostly intact, with original woodwork and art still visible.
It was one of Mike’s favorite places to take people on tour. The Brethren welcomed visitors, and while they used the property, they really had not done much to obscure its origins. To tell the truth, Mike always thought that OSV should have purchased the property and moved their offices out there.
Anyway, I am astonished at this photo. The painted emblem above the doorframe is the type that’s above every doorframe in the property. I imagine that in this photo Fr. Groeschel is showing Mike where Fr. Solanus’ room was, as well as his own.
I told my daughter once that the tipping point of grief and loss seems to be that point at which you are confronted with the reality of loss or a strong reminder of the one who has gone and the feeling of gratitude for the person’s life on earth starts to outweigh – even a little bit – the feeling of being kicked in the stomach. So. Deo Gratias.