New Jersey (The Gaslamp Post) – Sisters of the Religious Teachers of Fillippini of Morristown have taken it upon themselves to rebuild their convent, St. Joseph by the Sea, after it was damaged by Hurricane Sandy. The nuns although overwhelmed at first, now say that they’re up to the task of putting the pieces back together.
Director of the convent, Sister Brunilda Ramos, 65, said that the storm surge resulted in 4 feet of water in the cellar, and extensive damage to the structure. Where once stood walls and bedrooms, now only studs and floor joists remain.
They lost everything.
Sister Ramos has reportedly been learning new skills and is putting them to use. “I’m ready to receive a certificate in construction,” Ramos said. “That’s going to be my new ministry, my new vocation.” On the front door she posted a sign, “Why Worry? God’s in Control.”
But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
St. Joseph by the Sea has served as a retreat where people have come for prayer and reflection. It has been funded by guests from all across the country, but now that won’t be happening until the 22 bedroom facility is repaired.
Sister Ramos, along with Sister Dolores Bianchi, 75, make the daily trek of over an hour to oversee the construction and rebuilding process. The damage to the retreat has been estimated to be around $500,000.
The sisters reached out to the local VFW post, which has served as a processing center for local residents. Senior vice-commander Terry Fearon of post 8867, has been teaching Sister Ramos about the construction process.
Fearon, a former U.S. Naval Sea-Bee during the Viet Nam War, has also been schooling Sister Ramos on how to talk with contractors and the basics of cleaning, demolition and mold remediation. When they first came to the VFW post, they reportedly had a “deer in the headlight look,” said Fearon. “Because they had no clue what this disaster was and the process that laid in front of them.”
“Because of their tenacity,” he said. “They grabbed the bull by the horns and they’re still running.”
As Ramos, dressed in her religious habit with a black coat and black, rubber boots, walked across floor joists in the retreat house, she said, “I know what it’s all about. I learned how to walk on them.”
She’s also learned how to juggle the number of contractors needed to get the retreat house restored. So far, she said, everyone has been helpful and fair.
“Nobody is going to be dissing a nun,” she said. “You diss a nun, you’re in trouble.”
In addition to the damage to their convent, the storm had reportedly dumped mountains of sand throughout the property that has required the help of volunteers to remove. Both Sisters Ramos and Bianchi were reportedly both out there amongst them, digging it out shovel at a time.
“Every shovel was a prayer,” said Ramos. “Every shovel that we did was a prayer.”