Nuns learn to operate Bobcat loader to restore new home

Staff Report, February 22, 2022

Bobcat 773 skid-steer loader on loan from owner used by nuns to make dilapidated farming property fit for new monastery

After more than two centuries living in a monastery in Hradčany square next to the Castle in the centre of Prague in the Czech Republic, the order of Discalced Carmelite Nuns has moved to a new home in the village of Drasty, to the East of Prague.

The former farming property chosen by the sisters in Drasty has a rich history dating back to 1305, but when they moved there in 2018, it was in a considerably dilapidated state.

Nevertheless, the sisters have worked hard since then to turn it into a new convent complex that will serve the people of the local community. The nuns have employed a variety of techniques to achieve their goal, including the use of a 1997 Bobcat 773 skid-steer loader, which they have learnt to operate themselves.

The 773 loader, like many other Bobcat machines of this age, is still in good condition thanks to its robust construction and regular servicing and is more than able to be used to carry out a lot of hard work. Because of its age, the owners of the machine did not use the machine regularly and kindly lent it to the sisters for their use. The nuns have been using it in a basic configuration with a bucket and fitted with pallet forks to transport materials about the site.

Describing the construction work with the Bobcat loader, Sister Milada, a member of the order, says: “When we bought the area in Drasty, it was clogged up with a number of landfills and overgrown with mature trees. Knowing that we would not have enough money to repair the whole yard, we decided to do some work on our own or with the help of volunteers. We soon found out that we needed machines and equipment for these difficult initial jobs, so some of us learned to drive a tractor, use a chainsaw or brushcutter and to operate the Bobcat loader. The latter helped us a lot right from the beginning when we needed to move around any heavy materials, especially large tree stumps for burning. Later, we used it to transport pallets with bricks, soil and stone for landscaping in the meadow and to add gravel to the roads in the forest park.

“At the start, when we needed machines, we would source them with operators. But we soon found out that we could operate some of them ourselves, so we decided to buy or rent the machines and operate them ourselves. We had the long-term loan of the Bobcat loader, and our Sisters Terezka and Sára found that after renewing their driver's licences when we moved, they were only a short step away from operating machines like the Bobcat.”

Sister Terezka, who has operated the loader the most, explains: “I like the very simple, intuitive operation of the Bobcat loader and the fact that it can be used for many different tasks that need to be done here. It is excellent for transporting any heavy materials, so that we do not have to carry them by hand in wheelbarrows. It can be used to get to less accessible places and it is very handy for various landscaping and levelling tasks, many of which we have completed with the machine. The loader has saved us a lot of time and energy.”

The nuns had decided that the original building on Hradčany Square near Prague Castle where they lived was too noisy and did not offer enough space, so by moving to Drasty they have much more room including a much bigger garden and they are closer to nature and the community.

Reconstruction of the convent complex has been gradual. In March 2020, the nuns opened the Manor House, which provides them with temporary accommodation and will later be a welcome point for visitors. In October last year, a construction company started work on a new convent and church in a contract signed with the sisters. This followed on from three years of work by the sisters and volunteers to prepare the land and forest on the estate for the construction work.

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