The showers in the infirmary at St. Joseph’s Abbey in Spencer, Massachusetts, were leaking.

One day in early 2014, when Brother Aelred went downstairs to the storage room, he heard water dripping on the boxes — he looked up and sure enough, it was trickling from the ceiling just above the bathroom.

The metal plates beneath the leaking showers had rusted and collapsed.

The metal plates beneath the leaking showers had rusted and collapsed.

There are two accessible bathrooms, each with a shower, in the 30-year-old building. Eleven lived in the infirmary at the Trappist monastery and they all used the showers on a regular basis.

Brother Aelred immediately shut down the shower and shifted the monks to the shower in the other public bathroom. But the second shower was leaking even worse, sopping into a puddle in the HVAC equipment room.

“We had no choice but to let the water drip and try to limit the damage in the equipment room,” wrote Father Vincent, the cellarer at St. Joseph’s Abbey. “We had to have at least one shower available.”

In late August 2014, Father Vincent contacted the National Religious Retirement Office and asked if they offered grants for shower renovations — they referred him to SOAR!

By 2015, the monks needed to undertake a major renovation to stop the leaks. Over time, the grout around the walls of the shower deteriorated; water had collected behind the tile wall and seeped onto the floor, and the metal plates under the showers rusted and collapsed.

New tiles on concrete floor

A grant from SOAR! helped pay for renovations to the showers at St. Joseph’s Abbey, including new tiling.

Thanks in part to a grant from SOAR!, the monks were finally able to fix the leak and restore the two handicap showers in September 2015.

 “The renovated showers are very much appreciated,” said Father Francis, one of the monks who benefited from the repairs.

“They allow our elderly monks to take care of their bodily needs more easily so that we can conform ourselves to our spiritual vocation, for our own sake and that of the Church.”