Retreating from retreat center

Retreating from retreat center

The Diocese of Providence, Rhode Island, is closing its retreat center that sits on 38 acres next to Narrangansett Bay, part of a compound that was originally built as a mansion for a wealthy businessman in 1850 and bought by the diocese in 1951. They say they’re closing it due to declining interest and expected renovation costs around $1 million.

During the 1950s and 60s, the retreat center was booming, but interest fell off in the 70s. I wonder why.

In 1974, Bishop Louis E. Gelineau invited Sister M. Kieran Flynn, who had created a spiritual life center in Pawtucket after working with the poor in Central America, to merge her center with the retreat house in Narragansett. Sister Kieran took up the challenge, choosing to live alone in a hermitage on the property.

As more people used the center, more programs were added—workshops on centering prayer, liturgical dance, death and dying and other subjects of interest.

Maybe I don’t wonder why. Although they don’t say whether they continued to offer the programs there, in a more general sense, the problem with so many retreat centers is that they are often the locus of the looniest, wacky fringe spirituality: enneagrams, labyrinths, centering prayer, and so on. Your average Joe or Jane Six-Pack in the pew doesn’t want to waste their time on silly games and discovering their “inner child.” They want to encounter Christ in a moving and powerful way that is appropriate to their vocation and state in life and helps them become a better Christian, father or mother, husband or wife.

They say the retreat may not be closing permanently, but that they want to re-evalute it. Here’s hoping that if they do re-open it, they realize that by getting rid of the loopiness and return to something a little more conservative, they might have more success.

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Written by
Domenico Bettinelli
4 comments
  • Hello –  Does anyone think the diocese is going to pass up the big bucks they can get for 38 waterfront acres on Naragansett Bay for retreats?  Even if the pope gave them? Can see it now –  motivated seller needs cash to pay off law suits incurred by pervert personnel.

  • Top This One:

    From a New Jersey diocese newspaper:

    “Praying with the UN Earth Charter”.

  • Having seen more than enough of these loopy fads during my high school and college seminary days with the Redemptorists in the Midwest and South (mid 80s through early 90s), I think God is slowly allowing the weeds which have grown along with the wheat to die off.  As an earlier post mentioned, groups like Opus Dei (of which I am a cooperator) have excellent spiritual formation resources like evenings of recollection, solid annual retreats, and spiritual direction.  I’m sure there are other great orthodox resources too.  God and His Church know what they are doing.  This craziness shall pass.

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