Treat Yourself to a Retreat



When’s the last time you went on retreat?

As a single person you have greater opportunities to take some time for rest, prayer, and vocational discernment. Amid the hustle and bustle of life it’s particularly difficult to slow down and to take some reflective time for yourself and for God. Why not set aside some time to re-charge your spiritual batteries in the upcoming year?

There are an abundance of retreat opportunities — both silent and non-silent — across the United States. Whether you’re seeking the solitary atmosphere of the desert or the solace of a lakeside retreat, you’re sure to find something to fit your needs.

In the Land of Lakes and Loons

The state of Minnesota’s 10,000+ lakes provide an especially pastoral setting for retreats. One of the state’s most successful, and long-lasting, retreat houses is the Demontreville Jesuit Retreat House located northeast of St. Paul, Minnesota. Located on the banks of Lake Demontreville, the Wisconsin Province of Jesuits have been offering retreats at the site since November, 1948. More than twenty Jesuit priests from the province provide the retreats on a rotating basis.

Every year more than 3,000 men participate in silent weekend retreats at the Demontreville Jesuit Retreat House. Each retreat features four or five general conferences of approximately thirty minutes, daily celebration of the Eucharist, the rosary and Benediction, and opportunities for the Sacrament of Reconciliation and private consultation. The retreat house attracts both Catholics and non-Catholics.

Demontreville accommodates 65 men at each of the 47 retreats they offer each year. It is also unique in that there is no fee. Retreatants are asked for a freewill donation at the end of their retreat. Each retreat lasts from Thursday evening to Sunday evening.

The silent retreats are so popular that some men continue to attend annually, some for as many as thirty years or more.

Andy Hilger, a retired radio station owner, just celebrated his 50th year. He first attended as a college student and has been going ever since. Over the past eight or nine years he’s attended twice a year — once in January and once in July.

He also constantly recruits others.

“In a hectic, busy world it is a great way to get away from that and try to get closer to our Lord in an atmosphere that stresses silence,” said Hilger. “One of my buddies said it’s a great time to clear the cobwebs.”

Hilger feels that the silence is a large part of the retreat’s success.

“The Jesuits say that the silence is essential,” said he. “It makes audible the voice of God and disposes man to pray. The silence allows the Holy Spirit to lead you.”

One of Minnesota’s newest retreat houses — Schoenstatt on the Lake — just started offering male and female retreats last year. To date, they have offered four adult retreats and many, many retreats for youth.

“I find that in our society people are very daring to take the time for a retreat,” said Deanne Niehaus, a consecrated lay woman with the Schoenstatt Marian Lay Movement in Sleepy Eye, Minnesota. “People are so very busy. I admire those who take the time for God, for reflection and for prayer. Schoenstatt can offer a place for that, especially with our Marian Chapel.”

Schoenstatt on the Lake, like the 186 other Schoenstatt shrines worldwide, features a small chapel on the grounds where retreat-goers are able to pray and participate in the Mass. The retreat facility overlooks both fields and Lake Sleepy Eye.

“There’s nothing like the sound of twenty-six men’s voices singing in a small space,” said Tom Strang, a retired music teacher. He attended a retreat at the facility earlier this year titled, “From the Arena to the Altar,” led by German-born priest Fr. Gerald Langsch. The retreat examined how men balance their role between work, God and family.

In addition to the men’s retreat, the retreat house has also offered women’s retreats and a variety of youth summer retreats for boys and girls.

On the Coasts

For those looking for a more tropical setting, wonderful retreat opportunities are also available on Atlantic and Pacific coasts at the Retreat Ministry of the Marian Servants of Divine Providence in Clearwater, Florida; and the Sacred Heart Retreat House run by the Carmelite Sisters of the Sacred Heart located in Alhambra, California.

Off the Atlantic coast are the Marian Servants of the Divine Providence, situated on fifteen acres between Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico in Clearwater, Florida. The Marian Servants offer both individual and group retreats and is quite popular with various women’s religious orders.

Off the Pacific Coast, the Carmelite Sisters of the Sacred Heart have been offering retreats since their house was founded by Mother Maria Luisa Josefa of the Most Blessed Sacrament in 1941.

“During the time of the Catholic persecution in Mexico, Mother Luisita brought a group of sisters to the US for protection,” explained Sister Marisa, OCD, the retreat directoress. “Mother Luisita said souls were hungry for God. She died in 1937 and the house opened a few years later.”

The order offers a variety of retreats for lay women at two different retreat houses, one with lodging tucked amidst beautiful gardens in residential Alhambra, California; the other a day-facility located amid the arid beauty of the desert in the Antelope Valley of Palmdale, California.

During the year, they offer 26 weekend retreats for lay women. The retreat house can accommodate 86 women per weekend.

“We have many women who come annually,” said Sister Marisa. “It gives them a sense of stability. When they come here they experience the Lord in a powerful way and that draws them back. They call this their second home.”

Sister Marisa said that the sacraments are a highlight. Mass is celebrated daily. Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is offered most of the day on Saturday, and the opportunity for the Sacrament of Reconciliation is a popular among retreatants.

“No matter how hard their lives have been and the challenges they have faced, women have a real longing for God in their life,” said Sister Marisa. “They come longing for a deeper sense of peace, and to accept God’s will in their life.”

Sister Marisa added that she also feels that the retreats offer a time to strengthen the vocation of women.

“Through the retreats they are strengthened in their role as women,” said Sister Marisa. “There is so much confusion in that area. Women can come and have a renewed sense of dignity as women whether their vocation is to the religious life or married life.”

Tim Drake is a staff writer with the National Catholic Register, and author of the book Young and Catholic: The Face of Tomorrow’s Church (Sophia Institute Press, 2004). He writes from Saint Joseph, Minnesota.

This article has been re-published with written authorization of Catholic Match, LLC.

© Copyright 2006 Catholic Match, LLC. This article may not be copied, reproduced, republished, uploaded, posted, transmitted, or distributed in any way without written authorization of Catholic Match, LLC.

Tim Drake

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Tim Drake is an award-winning journalist, the author of six books on religion and culture, and a former radio host. Widely published, and a long-time contributor to the National Catholic Register, he serves as Senior Editor/Director of News Operations for the Cardinal Newman Society.

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