Mississippi Knights of Columbus dedicate summer weekends to Carmelites

By Brett Kenyon
JACKSON – On Saturday, June 9, several dozen men of varying ages, backgrounds, skill levels, and from multiple Mississippi parishes gathered in South Jackson. Armed with chain saws, hammers and paint brushes the local representatives of the Knights of Columbus began tackling a mammoth project — restoring the South Jackson Carmelite Monastery to help the cloistered nuns in their mission.
The inspiration for the project began at Easter, when Father Lincoln Dall of Pearl St. Jude led a retreat for the sisters. “While I was out here, they told me there was a lot of help that they needed,” Father Lincoln explained. “They showed me a gazebo and a prayer hermitage that had been damaged maybe 10-12 years ago, and had just been abandoned. They told me how much they would like to have those up and running again.”

JACKSON – Members of several different Knights of Columbus Councils repair the gazebo on the property of the Carmelite monastery as part of a restoration project. (photos by Brett Kenyon)

That was the moment the Knights of Columbus entered the picture. As an organization originally founded to help widows and children, the project was a perfect fit for the Mississippi Knights, and the men quickly began putting together a plan under the organization of Knight Victor (Vic) Gray-Lewis of Jackson Saint Richard’s council.
“We’re just a group of Catholic men who love our Catholic faith,” Gray-Lewis said. “We’re just worker bees. We’re worker bees and that’s what we’re here doing today.”
The first weekend of work tackled two primary goals — restoring the grounds by removing years of overgrowth from the monastery walls and paths, and restoring the sisters’ gazebo to a safer, sturdier state. The purpose of the work goes well beyond aesthetics, however, as well-maintained grounds are a vital part of the sisters’ mission.
“The Carmelites are a cloistered order of nuns,” explains Father Lincoln, “their primary charism is to pray; to pray for the area and be a presence of God in a special way to the city of Jackson. They run a gift shop to earn a living and to cover expenses, but their primary purpose is to be contemplative and to pray.”
The thick trees and brush covering the monastery walls and encroaching on the sisters’ walking path has been all but removed. The shingles and broken screens have been removed from the gazebo and fresh paint and tar paper have been applied. There’s still plenty of work left to do. The Knights have returned twice now since the initial June 9 project, and they plan to keep coming back.
“The hope is, we’d like to take this project and make it a monthly effort,” Gray-Lewis explained. “If each council could take a month to work on maintenance, something minor just to help out the sisters here. We could do a monthly rotation or maybe even a bi-monthly rotation.”
To volunteer, email Father Lincoln Dall at lincoln95@hotmail.com or Victor Gray-Lewis at victorg@vicksburg.org.
(Brett Kenyon is a member of Jacskon St Richard Parish and serves as the Creative Services Director for 16 WAPT in Jackson.).