Christendom College

Alumnus Structural Mason Helps Build Carmelite Monastery

October 9, 2018

A dream of a monastery is quickly becoming a reality for the Carmelites of Fairfield, Pennsylvania, and a Christendom alumnus is helping to make it happen. William Johnson ‘18 is one of the many volunteers, from experienced structural masons to an HGTV-famous timber company, assisting the Carmelites in building a monastery farmstead, based on old-world designs, creating a location where the Carmelites can grow and thrive for years to come.

Johnson joined the team of volunteers this summer to help finish the monastery farmstead for the rapidly growing community. When the Carmelites moved into a monastery in Elysburg, Pennsylvania, in 2007, they experienced a surge in vocations that quickly made the location too small for their community. While many Carmelite monasteries are used to having a novitiate of three or four, this community has 18, with more on the way. Because of this, a new monastery became necessary, and the Carmelites desired nothing grand, but something of wood and stone instead — a farmstead, where the Carmelites could live in the tradition of the original Carmelites.

The Carmelites reached out to the surrounding community for help, and Orthodox Masonry became one of the first to answer that call. Johnson, who earned his degree in philosophy from Christendom, joined Orthodox after graduation as a structural masonry apprentice, after summers spent working as a landscaper, carpenter’s assistant, and forger during college. With the rest of his company, he quickly got to work on building the monastery for the Carmelites, learning new skills along the way.

Johnson is also working with Lancaster County Timber Frames, Inc. during the construction. The company and its founder, Tony Zaya, are known for their innovative designs and work on the HGTV show, Dream House, and are helping to bring the monastery farmstead to life as well.

The construction has already garnered nationwide attention, helping to bring even more people to Pennsylvania to help the Carmelites. When the farmstead is finished, the Carmelites will be able to live, till crops, raise livestock, and pray in a location that will inspire and sustain them.

All of this is resulting in a powerful experience for Johnson. Years spent growing as a student of philosophy and learning various crafts have resulted in this project, one where stone and wood combine to make a place of prayer and peace. Because of it, Johnson is able to grow as a stonemason, network with noted figures in the construction industry, and build something that will help religious sisters flourish for years to come.

Watch the video below to learn more.