BAILEYS HARBOR — The old stone barn, she ain’t what she used to be. She’s going to be lots better.
Much of St. Joseph Formation Center is housed in a huge, repurposed barn that long ago belonged to Waseda Farms, a well-known organic beef operation in Door County once owned by the Priests of the Sacred Heart. It now belongs to the Diocese of Green Bay and is leased to Catholic Youth Expeditions. CYE hosts 30 full-season camping expeditions as an evangelization ministry to high school and college students, under the direction of Fr. Quentin Mann.
The grounds, on the shores of Kangaroo Lake, also house staff and interns who live, work and pray together in community, forming a God-centered atmosphere that the expeditioners are invited to experience. The center recently became home to the newly formed women’s religious order, Missionaries of the Word, led by Mother Mary Catherine.
It sounds idyllic, but there have been challenges, with space at a premium, heating sadly inefficient, and the need for adequate formation space for the sisters. Two years ago, Fr. Mann and Mother Mary Catherine met Mark Loper and his wife Mary, and shared their renovation dreams with them — hardly guessing that the couple would help give their dreams wings.
“The dream included a new dining hall, multi-purpose room on the second floor (of the former barn), handicap accessible restrooms and more overnight accommodations. The plan would require a new and efficient heating system, new plumbing and electrical systems,” Mark Loper wrote recently in a newsletter. “My most distinct memory was a winter in a 2013 visit where a buildup of condensation in a hallway, due to inadequate heat, created an ice-rink condition.”
Fr. Mann and the building company had already begun a renovation campaign, which was progressing slowly, but Loper was familiar with construction and knew the project could take years if done bit by bit.
“I offered to assist Fr. Quinn to facilitate the project to completion,” Loper said. He learned that Errico Aurrichio, a CYE friend, had already enlisted architect Chris Renier to prepare drawings for the project. Loper contacted childhood friend Dave Voss, CEO of Miron Construction. They began to assemble a team run by Catholic and Christian individuals.
“After looking at all the needs and the dreams, a first estimate determined that the project would cost $1.4 million. Thanks to the willingness of that team to donate things like labor and materials, that figure came down to $400,000,” Loper said in a phone conversation.
Fr. Mann said they have 60 percent of the renovation funds given or pledged already, and are trusting God and generous benefactors to come through with the remaining 40 percent.
Currently, the center has quarters for the sisters in a former office area; the Brebeuf Bistro for snacks and conversation; Club Genesius for Catholic performers; the Florian Fire Room to warm up after outdoor activities; a make-shift room for female expeditioners in the winter; and a bunkhouse for the boys. The chapel is separate.
“In the summer, we can have as many as 100 sleeping in tents in the yard,” said novice Sr. Marie Bernadette. “But in the winter, when it’s cold, that won’t work. There’s the boat house and the hermitage building, but they have no running water.”
Among the additions will be a finished second floor in the barn with two huge rooms that can be used as bunk space, or as multi-purpose rooms. They will be separated by handicapped-accessible bathrooms.
“We’re concerned about functionality, but we also want to make the spaces dignified to show the young people their own dignity,” Sr. Bernadette said. New space for staff and interns will include a small chapel.
Tony Hauser, project superintendent, said Fr. Quinn wanted to leave as much of the original barn interior visible as possible. Stone walls, ceilings (which were once low, false ceilings) and bricks were all cleaned using corn blasting, a more environmentally friendly process.
Hauser and the sisters seem most delighted with the plans for the silo, which is still in its rough form. Eventually, it will have a circular staircase along the walls, ascending to a third-level platform, which will look down upon an eight-foot statue of Mary, and out a window to the lake beyond. The walls will include paintings of salvation history.
“Fr. Quinn wants to call it the Sistine Silo,” Sr. Marie Bernadette said, grinning broadly in anticipation.
“The completed project will offer an environment … conducive to bringing the joy of Christ’s word to our Catholic youth, many who journey to CYE seeking answers,” Loper said. “Most encouraging is the lives that have already been and will continue to be changed, and the vocations arising out of this ministry.”