Construction work under way on ‘Abbey Fields of St. Bede’

Photo Caption: Abbot Philip Davey, OSB, of St. Bede Abbey in Peru and project leaders break ground for Abbey Fields of St. Bede, an assisted living and memory care community coming to Spring Valley.

By: By Jennifer Willems

SPRING VALLEY — For many years the monks at St. Bede Abbey have dreamed of how they might expand their ministry in central Illinois. Now their dream has a name: Abbey Fields of St. Bede.

Ground was broken for the assisted living and memory care community, which is being built in partnership with RPM Management and Janko Financial Group LLC, on Sept. 26. The $13 million project is expected to be completed in about 10 months.

“We’ve been looking for additional service and this is something we thought we could contribute, especially since when it’s come up there has been interest from our alumni and friends,” Abbot Philip Davey, OSB, told The Catholic Post.

“It’s a tranquil atmosphere in a variety of ways,” he said. “At first it may seem stark to be planted in the middle of corn and beans, but I think people will appreciate that this is a quiet and peaceful place.”

Abbey Fields is being constructed on seven acres on the northwest side of the St. Bede property, which the monks are leasing to the Janko Financial Group. While the abbey has a Peru address, the 950 acres owned by the monks actually straddles the city limits of Peru and Spring Valley and Abbey Fields will have a Spring Valley address.

Blair Minton, CEO and president of RPM Management, said the one-story structure will include 40 assisted living units and 22 memory care units.

The first thing people will see upon entering Abbey Fields is a chapel. In it there will be two stained glass windows from the former St. Benedict Church in Ladd, where the Benedictines from St. Bede served for many years.

The building with the assisted living units is designed in such a way as to form two courtyards or cloisters. Abbot Philip said he has been talking with Gracie Nebel, chief operating officer at RPM Management, about making one of them a prayer area with a grotto and the other an area for gardening and socializing.

Minton said the memory care units will be in a self-contained building that will have alarmed doors to cut down on “elopement” — residents leaving without supervision.

Abbey Fields is available for people who are at least 65, but Minton said the average age for people who seek this kind of a community is 86. About 85 percent of the residents are expected to be women.

“For me what is most important is that Blair and Gracie and all the people from his organization have a sense of mission,” Abbot Philip said before turning a shovel of dirt and sprinkling the site with holy water. “They take great pride in serving people and working with us so the people who are here will have a good quality of life.”

He said what struck him most when he visited some of the other facilities managed by RPM was that almost everyone was smiling. The people were happy and friendly.

“I think that the addition of what we can provide through the monastery and through the school will simply help what (Minton) is doing to be outstanding and probably in some ways become a model for others,” Abbot Philip said. “If that happens, praise God that we realize what we need to take care of the whole person.”

Abbot Philip said he is excited about the potential for interaction between the students from St. Bede Academy and the residents of Abbey Fields, especially the boarding students. Many of them are from Asian cultures where there is a deep respect for elders and that will offer a “natural and comfortable way . . . for them to do service and in a sense learn English by getting to know the people there.”

He sees the monks offering a ministry of presence to the people at Abbey Fields, not only in person but through streaming video from the chapel at St. Bede Abbey. In this way the residents will be able to share Mass, the daily office and eucharistic adoration with the monks. The technology could also be used to broadcast events at St. Bede Academy, such as homecoming and football and basketball games.

Minton said the partnership between the monastery, the school and the retirement community is unique.

“To my knowledge no one has ever done that. This will be very cutting edge as far as retirement communities and assisted living communities,” Minton told The Post. “It will certainly be the first one in Illinois, if not the first one in the United States to do this.”

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