Announcing…our first Master Facilities Plan!

Announcing…our first Master Facilities Plan!

As board member Kathryn mentioned in the spring print newsletter, our partnership with the Wheaton Franciscan Sisters includes support to collaborate with architect Chip Williamson ( to develop the first Master Facilities Plan for Bethlehem Farm. Since May, Chip has been working with the Board and Caretaker Community to develop an overall plan for the sustainable design of the Bethlehem Farm property, including best placement of the remaining structures, rain collection plan, green design, etc. We did not want to build the first structure, only to find that it would not drain as expected into the rainwater containment, or only to find that we could have used the same ditch to run electric or water to the different building sites, or only to realize that the tractor bay should have been designed into the first building, when we realize later that it does not fit into the maintenance garage.

Our Master Planning process has always been centered on our mission. Our first Master Plan resulted in the building of the Caretaker Residence as a way of investing in the “transforming lives” aspect of our mission. We recognized that the Caretaker Community, with the support of the Summer Servants, were fundamental to our mission, so we ensured that those people had housing that was supportive of a long-term commitment to the mission. Now it is time to invest deeper in the other aspects of our mission.

The San Damiano Center for Sustainability is a barn that will invest in the “teaching sustainable practices” aspect of our mission through supporting organic gardening, pastured livestock, rainwater collection, and service-learning activities.

The maintenance garage/tool barn/wood shop will invest in the “service with the local community” aspect of our mission. Vehicles are the unsung heroes of the home repair program, so having a place set aside for the proper care and repair of our work vehicles, regardless of the weather, will make us more efficient and resilient as we extend our reach further into the local community. Tools allow us to accomplish tasks so much faster when we have the right tool in the right hands at the right time, but we have run out of space to effectively organize and store our tools. We are excited for the ways that these new facilities will strengthen our mission and core programs.

In July, the board approved a 5-year Master Facilities Plan:

  1. Solar electric panels—100% solar Fall 2018
  2. San Damiano Center for Sustainability Summer 2019
         Then tear down old garden tool shed
  1. 18,000-gal Rainwater Containment Fall 2019
  2. Garage/Tool Barn/Wood Shop Summer 2020
         Parking lot expansion/BBall Court/Picnic Shelter
  1. Retreat House Renovation Autumn 2021
         Structural Evaluation/Kitchen Renovation
  1. House in the Fields Renovation Autumn 2022

Phases one through four are in the planning stages now. The solar panels are covered by the Wheaton Franciscan grant and will be installed this fall or next spring. A Building Planning Committee is working out the details of what will be contained in San Damiano and the (yet-to-be-named) maintenance garage. Until you come up with a better name (or someone decides to pay for the building J) I am using the interim name of St. Joe’s Home Repair Program Acceleration Lab J or “the garage”. Once the planning committee finalizes its work, the fundraising committee will be reaching out through the fall newsletter, winter benefit, and other means to raise enough support to make these dreams real.

The San Damiano Center for Sustainability is named for the church where the Order of St. Clare had its first monastery and where St. Francis received his call, repeated three times: “Francis, go and repair My church which, as you see, is all in ruins!,” often abbreviated as “Rebuild my Church”. Afterwards Saint Francis took action to physically repair the structure of the San Damiano church, although he eventually realized that God’s message to him was to restore the entire Catholic Church as a whole body rather than literally repair one stone structure. We see the Bethlehem Farm mission as part of this call to “Rebuild My Church”.

 The Wheaton Franciscan grant includes partial funding for the San Damiano Center for Sustainability. We have pledged to match those grant funds with donations from the Bethlehem Farm community.

We are seeking donors who are interested in getting these projects off the ground. Please consider donating now to give these promising projects a good start!

 More details to come…