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John Nephew

Maplewood City Council Policy & Politics


St Paul's Monastery Public Meeting

Next Monday, May 7th, there will be a special public meeting at the Maplewood Community Center, 7 PM, on the topic of the proposed developments at St. Paul's Monastery. The Benedictine sisters who call the Monastery home have found that it's more space than they need, so they propose building a new and smaller home for themselves; turning the existing building into a facility for the Tubman Family Alliance; and using another parcel of land for an affordable housing development in collaboration with Common Bond Communities. The plan requires approval from the Maplewood City Council.

I encountered five sisters from the monastery when they attended the Mayor's Forum at the start of April, where they had ready answers for all of the questions posed to them by fellow Maplewood residents, and additional information as well. Some of the information was surprising -- for example, the affordable housing income limit is somewhere around $43,000, if memory serves. Some citizens at the forum remarked in some amazement that they themselves could qualify to live there.

I know some neighbors have concerns about the development, about the effect on traffic for example, but what I've heard of the plan so far has made a positive impression on me. I admit I've always had a soft spot for Benedictine nuns (going back to when I was a little kid running around the halls of St. Scholastica, the Benedictine college where my dad is still an ethics professor, named after St. Benedict's twin sister). Sometimes people have an idea of the religious as being removed from the world in a kind of state of abstraction and disembodied prayer. In truth, these women have devoted themselves to bettering the world we live in, not just the world that may come hereafter; projects like this serve the living needs of the community, and thereby further the spiritual calling of the sisters as well.

If you have doubts about this project, you should attend in order to voice those doubts and see if they can be put to rest. (In fact, without waiting for the meeting, you might find that the monastery's web site already has the answers to your questions under the "Resources About the Planned Unit Development" section on its front page.) If the project sounds like a good idea, you should still attend, to learn more and to be visible in your support of the sisters' good works.

I plan to be there, and I hope you will be too.

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