For 25 years, the Dominican Sisters of Saint Cecilia have lived in the small gatehouse at Mount De Sales Academy while they faithfully taught hundreds of girls at the high school.
The structure was built in 1852 as a hunting lodge and the quarters were always tight. Finally, after years of planning, fund-raising and nine months of construction, the eight sisters moved this week into a new convent building on the campus.
The convent is built to accommodate 12, allowing for expansion of the order.
Sister Philip Joseph Davis, director of academy advancement, said the additional space is an important part of the new building.
"You need space," she said, "particularly in the religious life with the whole concept of contemplation. [Here] there's a place to be able to do that."
Sister Philip Joseph said the sisters are excited at the prospect of having more nuns come to the campus to serve.
The building is part of a three-phase capital campaign for the campus. The first phase includes the convent building and increased security measures for the campus such as lighting and surveillance cameras.
The second phase will be a new turf athletic field and the third phase will be a performing arts building. For the first phase, the academy still needs $250,000 toward the $4 million needed for the cost of the projects.
There are a few public spaces in the convent, including a visiting parlor, a main hallway and chapel. The rest is private for the nuns.
Throughout the building are items that some sisters found, collected or restored for their new home.
Placed into the wall leading to the chapel are busts of the evangelists, which were purchased found in Pennsylvania. Inside the chapel, the stations of the cross are represented in oil-on-copper paintings that were made in Czechoslovakia. The benches are made of cherry by a furniture company in Pennsylvania.
The chapel's beauty is inspirational, said Sister Philip Joseph.
"It's really the most important room for our life," she said. "It's the center of our life."
The nuns pray in the chapel three times a day at 5 a.m., 5 p.m. and at 7 p.m.
The window in the back of the chapel almost perfectly frames the main academic building on campus up the hill.
Also on the first floor are a spacious kitchen with new appliances and a dining room or refectory where the nuns eat together in silence.
Upstairs in the convent are the cells or living spaces for the nuns, which are 130 square feet. There is also a patio and a side porch, which will eventually be a good viewing spot for the athletic field that will eventually be built.
The convent is hosting an Open House on June 12 from 1-4 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.