~ by Mark Piper, National Catholic Reporter
I have been the director of the Cenacle Retreat and Conference Center in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago since June 10, 2019. The last few months have been difficult on all of us who operate retreat centers. We are used to the cycle of welcoming and sending forth, of hellos and goodbyes, but waiting so long after a goodbye to say hello once more is new to us.
In late February, we took note and precautions due to the pandemic. But by March 13, before the state of Illinois issued its shelter-in-place mandate we chose to close to the public until we could safely reopen. As with retreat centers across the world, [we] provide the space for people of all walks of life to go out and do justice, love, mercy and transform our world. [At retreat centers] whoever they [may be], they are welcome to grace our simple, holy halls.
Every [retreat] colleague of mine has been burdened and vexed. We’re figuring out how to pivot, how to live our mission as places of welcome, acceptance and healing, under new and existential duress: necessary prolonged closures.
in Illinois, Nancy Golen, Director of the Cabrini Retreat Center in Des Plaines, shared that these mandates have, “caused Cabrini to be separated from our ministerial identity as a place of physical sacred space.”
“Approximately 80% of the guests at Cabrini are youth. The closure came at a time when we would have been at full capacity with multiple Kairos Retreats,” she said. “For decades, we’ve welcomed and cared for young people. As we plan our reopening there are many considerations to restore that sense of sacred safety. Cabrini’s sponsors have been open to offering the retreat space for other forms of service.”
Civic or health care representatives have approached some centers about utilizing their space to house first responders, quarantined individuals or homeless persons. Some obliged. Other retreat centers have found that impractical due to vulnerable populations who live on-site. Nancy said that, “Due to the way our facility is designed, and the nature of COVID-19, no fit was found for the space to date.”
“We miss our guests. Despite bleak financial realities, we maintain a trust in a God of love and abundance,” said Mark Piper. “A trust that, when it is safe, we will say ‘welcome’ once again. Until that day of our next holy hello, we’re in anxious solidarity, praying this long goodbye.
To read the entire article