Spiritual retreats and days of recollection are part and parcel of what it is to be a committed Christian.
Summertime is a good opportunity to pause and invest in one’s prayer life. Right here in the Philadelphia area, there are a number of retreat houses and spiritual centers that offer resources for inner renewal.
This list is by no means complete.
Ave Maria Retreat Center, which has been in operation since 2000, is located on the grounds of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa in Doylestown. Directed by the Pauline Fathers and Brothers, the center accommodates day, overnight and weekend groups of up to 75 for retreats, days of recollection or reflections and conferences. Single, double and triple rooms are available.
Many groups bring their own priests, and of course Masses are offered daily at the shrine.
“While 98 percent of the people who come are Catholic, we do get people from all denominations,” said spokesperson Helena Masiorski. “We get people from all over the world.”
In addition to the Ave Maria Retreat Center’s schedule, there are many very large day events conducted at the shrine’s conference center, Masiorski said.
For more information, call the shrine office at 215-345-0600 or visit the shrine’s website.
The Basilian Spirituality Center, located at the Convent of the Sisters of the Order of St. Basil the Great in Philadelphia’s Fox Chase section, concentrates on one-day retreats and can accommodate up to 120 in two conference rooms, according to director Sean McLaughlin.
What sets the center apart is its ability to convey a sense of the universality of the church. The sisters are members of the Byzantine Ukrainian Catholic Church. While they are not Roman Catholic, their church is in full communion with the Holy See.
A visit to their chapel exposes a person to another side of Catholicism, and their Divine Liturgy contains the same essence as a Roman Catholic Mass, in that the bread and wine are truly transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ.
”We will do a teaching Mass if people want to learn the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom,” McLaughlin said. “It is an example of what Pope John Paul II meant when he said, ‘the church breathes with two lungs.’”
The center is ideal for parish groups or school groups who want to sample the stunning architecture and liturgical beauty of the Eastern tradition, so much different from, yet similar to, Roman Catholicism.
For more information, call the Basilian Spirituality Center at 215-379-3998 or visit the center’s website.
Cranaleith Spirituality Center, a ministry sponsored by the Religious Sisters of Mercy, is located at 14875 Proctor Road in Northeast Philadelphia.
Founded by Sister Mary Trainor, R.S.M., it is located on what was once her family’s 10-acre estate.
Although most of its programs are day sessions for up to 80 people, Cranaleith does have limited accommodations for overnight or longer, private or directed retreats for both adults and youth. The center also features a wide range of programs supporting spiritual growth.
In keeping with the R.S.M. order’s charism, most (but not all) of the spirituality programs conducted at Cranaleith focus on social justice concerns such as immigration, nonviolence and women’s issues.
“We try to serve and reach those on the margins,” said Sister Kathleen McCauley, program director at Cranaleith. “It is … also to have a place where people from the two extremes, the haves and the have nots, can meet.”
For more information on Cranaleith Spiritual Center, call 215-934-6206 or visit the center’s website.
Daylesford Abbey Spirituality Center, located on a peaceful 80-acre property in Paoli, hosts a variety of conferences and retreats, ranging in length from a few hours to a week. The Norbertine Fathers at the abbey, who direct the center, conduct several of the sessions although a group may bring its own spiritual director or conference leaders.
For overnight or longer stays, the abbey can accommodate up to 70 guests in 35 rooms. Day programs can accommodate much larger groups, with ample dining facilities available for larger groups.
For more information, call 610-647-2530 ext. 135 or visit the center’s website.
Fatima House Retreat Center in Bedminster (near Ottsville, Bucks County) is conducted by a vowed lay group of single and married members, the Apostleship of Our Lady of Fatima, which according to president Jim Black was founded in 1958. The center conducts day programs for up to 50 participants, and overnight retreats for 12 in two houses.
While the Blessed Sacrament is reserved in a small chapel, with special services on the first Saturday of the month, visitors may attend Mass at either nearby St. John the Baptist Church in Ottsville, or just minutes away at Our Lady of Czestochowa Shrine in Doylestown.
For more information, call 215-795-2947.
The IHM Conference Center, located on the grounds of St. Aloysius Academy in Bryn Mawr, can accommodate about 50 people for day programs, according to director Immaculate Heart Sister Marie Gipprich.
“Our focus is on day retreats for parishes, parochial schools and private schools, as well as days of spirituality,” she said. “We can provide continental breakfasts and also hot lunches prepared by our staff.”
For more information, call 610-581-0120 or visit the center’s website.
The IHM Spirituality Center, located across from Immaculata University in Immaculata, hosts overnight retreats and can accommodate 38 guests in single rooms. The center welcomes people of all faith denominations, and meals are provided. Groups supply their own retreat director or spiritual director.
For more information visit the website or call 610-647-4136.
Malvern Retreat House, Malvern, is at this point the oldest Catholic retreat house in America and by far the largest. It was founded in 1912 and remains lay owned and operated with the endorsement of Philadelphia’s archbishop. Its unusual success may be attributed to its adherence to that single purpose — conducting retreats and other spiritual exercises — and never diverting resources or personnel for other worthy purposes that are not part of its charism.
In the beginning that meant running well-organized weekend retreats for men. That has expanded to include retreats for women, for married couples, for youth, for priests and religious, as well as Matt Talbot retreats, vocation retreats and others including single-day programs every day of the week.
Malvern serves well over 20,000 retreatants a year, according to Anne McGlone, the director of marketing. It has sleeping accommodations for 400 and some of the specialty retreats draw people from around the world. “We are open year-round, and we have people here every day,” she said.
For more information on Malvern Retreat House see malvernretreat.com or call 610-644-0400.
St. Mary of Providence Center in Elverson is a ministry of the Daughters of St. Mary of Providence who host retreats in two buildings on their campus, according to Sister Kathy Stark.
“Our bread and butter are weekend retreats,” she said, explaining one building can house 60 people, the other 55. But there are also a number of day retreats, especially for high school students, three- and four-day retreats and even week-long silent retreats. The center has two chapels, also outdoor stations of the cross and a Rosary Garden but not all groups coming are Catholic, Sister Katy explained. “We can accommodate people of all different faiths,” she said.
As with many others, St. Mary of Providence does not provide retreat masters, the groups bring their own.
For more information on St. Mary of Providence Retreat Center visit the website or call 610-942-4166.
The Shrine of St. John Neumann at St. Peter the Apostle Church in Philadelphia is not a retreat house but by its very nature is a draw for day pilgrimages and retreats by Catholic schools, plus teachers’ retreats, according to Redemptorist Father Raymond Collins the shrine’s director.
The shrine does not have cooking facilities, but it does have a dining area at the St. John Neumann Center. Groups typically bring their lunch or the shrine can recommend a nearby caterer if needed, said Father Collins. A visit to the tomb of St. John Neumann would always be part of the experience and a recent addition is the Redemptorist Archives with many historic artifacts.
For more information on the St. John Neumann Shrine’s pilgrimages or retreats visit the website or call 215-627-3080 ext. 115.
Mother Boniface Spirituality Center, a ministry of the Missionary Sisters of the Blessed Trinity on Solly Avenue in Northeast Philadelphia, conducts weekend retreats on about 40 of the 52 weeks of the year. There are also day programs including spiritual direction, according to the director, Edel Finnegan, and the center can accommodate more than 60 guests for retreats.
There are programs in English and Spanish and the focus is on evangelization in Philadelphia. “We also run programs for people in danger of losing their faith and the poor in spirit,” she said.
For more information visit the website of Mother Boniface Spirituality Center or call 215-331-7540.
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