Escape. Unplug. Pray.

November 13, 2012

HOUSTON — Escaping the hurly burly of daily life isn’t an easy thing to do these days, but more and more people are taking a break to deepen their relationship with God and loved ones, according to the folks who run the retreat centers in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston.

Whether it’s getting away for marriage preparation, for family bonding, to work through problems or quietly contemplate, there are few better places than these islands of tranquility in and around Houston. Often set in grounds with woods and gardens or by water, the facilities don’t have the distractions — TVs, phones and computers — of modern day life and in many cases offer good home cooking. 

“We provide the environment for couples to talk to each other,” said Deacon Arturo Monterrubio, Director of the Archdiocesan Office of Family Life Ministry that oversees retreats for marriage preparation and married couples at Cameron Retreat Center. 

Cameron Retreat Center is tilted towards weekend marriage preparation retreats, focusing on communication and conflict resolution, but also covering such areas as natural family planning, intimacy, finances and the marriage ceremony itself. 

“What we have seen is that marriage preparation is essential to the success of marriage and for the couple to remain together,” Monterrubio said. 
Cameron, set in St. Dominic Village at 2405 Holcombe, is one of three retreat centers run by the Archdiocese, while there are several others within the Archdiocese that are run by religious orders and other groups. 

Between them, they offer retreats for men, for women, for youth and for clergy, Spanish speaking retreats, quinceanera retreats, ACTS (Adoration, Community, Theology and Service) retreats, 12-Step retreats and more. 

Cameron Retreat Center focuses on weekend marriage preparation retreats, covering topics from communication and conflict resolution to natural family planning, intimacy, finances and the marriage ceremony itself. (Photo courtesy of Cameron Retreat Center)

“There is something for everyone,” said Jim Barrette, who oversees the three Archdiocesan centers, which also includes Circle Lake Retreat Center and Camp Kappe.

Tailored for families, Circle Lake, in Pinehurst, offers separate 14 homes for families, a conference center, chapel and two dining halls, with overnight accommodations for up to 150 people. Set on 45 acres, the grounds encompass a stocked lake and gardens. Camp Kappe, in Plantersville, focuses on youth, hosting weekend confirmation groups and environmental education camps during the week for fifth graders from schools in the Archdiocese.

The 24-room Cenacle Retreat House, set on nine acres of grounds at 420 N. Kirkwood in Memorial, hosts overnight and day retreats for private groups and individuals and offers ongoing, one-on-one spiritual direction.

“People do need to create time if they want to deepen their relationship with God,” said Sister Mary Guido, who runs the center with Cenacle Sisters and lay people.

Set in 52 wooded acres along Dickinson Bayou, the Christian Renewal Center, 1515 Hughes Rd., is perhaps the largest center, with capacity for up to 222 overnighters in eight lodges. The center, run by the non profit CRC Partners Inc., created to take over management from the Missionary Oblates, hosts Spanish and English speaking retreats for men, women and youth groups and offers year round workshops. 

“Listen for Christ’s Sake” is the theme this year at Holy Name Passionist Retreat Center, 430 Bunker Hill Rd. in Bunker Hill, which offers a variety of retreats, including 12-Step and Al-Anon inter-denominational retreats for small groups. Father Joseph Moons, C.P., who runs the center, said it is an important part of their work to provide a safe haven for people to tell their stories.

“To listen, this is what Jesus did,” Father Moons said.

Cenacle Retreat House, set on nine acres of grounds, hosts overnight and day retreats for private groups and individuals. (Photo courtesy of Cenacle Retreat House )

Mt. Carmel House of Prayer, a 60-bed center at 9600 Deer Trail Dr. in north Houston, specializes in quinceanera retreats for boys and girls. 

“What we do is, we try to help the girls (and boys) to encounter Jesus as a friend and savior and to encounter Mary,” said Sister Herlinda Cardenas, assistant director. “It’s a time for them to realize there’s more to it than the party. It’s a time to be thankful.”

Sister Cardenas and Deacon Jim Wright of the Christian Renewal Center said they are seeing an upward trend in demand for their services. Deacon Wright suggested it might be the difficult economy and pressures of daily life.

“I think when people are hurting and experiencing a lot of difficulties, they gravitate towards retreats to find answers and work out their spiritual life,” he said.