Centering on making the family a school of deeper humanity through retreats

December 9, 2014

PINEHURST — In the words of St. John Paul II, all members of the family are responsible for making the family a “school of deeper humanity” (Saint John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation, Familiaris Consortio, Second Vatican Council, GS, 52). He defines this as the day-to-day commitment to the caring and loving of children, the sick and aging, and sharing “goods, of joys and of sorrow.” 

Because the Church believes that the family is one of the most precious of human values, programs and services that are geared to helping family members renew their faith are imperative. Retreats have been an integral part of the Catholic faith and provide an opportunity to get away from everyday life, rest and renew ones faith regularly.

An example are retreats held at the Circle Lake Family Retreat Center in Pinehurst, which is funded by the Diocesan Services Fund. In 1995, Archbishop Emeritus Joseph A. Fiorenza, together with the Office of Family Life Ministry and Ralph Marek of Marek Brothers Construction, who was a supporter of family ministry and the sanctity of family, had a conversation about the need for a family retreat center. 

After many discussions, a 45-acre tract of land owned by the Marek family was generously donated to the Archdiocese, and in 2002, the Family Retreat Center was completed and opened its doors for guests.

“Our vision has always been to be a place where family members can grow closer to God through prayer, growing in faith, learning, and playing together,” said Gloria M. Bustillo, current director of the Family Retreat Center at Circle Lake. “In our establishment, we envision that families and friends will have a place where they can leave the distractions of everyday life and escape to a family-friendly site where emphasis is placed on the sanctity of family.”

When sharing their reaction of their Circle Lake Retreat experience, Bustillo said guests consistently describe their visit with statements such: “This place is holy ground” or “The mystery of Circle Lake is that it grabs hold of you and becomes a part of your vision of living a life of grace” or “The beauty of nature surrounds you and stills you to listen for God’s answer to your prayer.”

One guest that would agree is Terrie Vacek, who helps coordinate ACTS Retreats held at Circle Lake and who, herself, has been a retreatant. She said the facilities are kept in excellent condition and the amenities offer something for guests of all ages. Believing it is much more than just a place to host retreats and special events, Vacek said the Family Retreat Center provides a sacred space for individuals or groups to heal, renew, learn and evolve in unimaginable ways.

“As the lake wraps around the chapel, I feel like the living waters of God are wrapping around my life, my trials,” Vacek said. “I have been blessed as I witnessed so many life-changing moments right there. This sanctuary was created for families, the faith community, and for worship, and is an avenue of support to those coming together as they renew and refresh their walk with our Lord.” 

Vacek said the Family Retreat Center has been a place that produces new possibilities within the hearts of each guest. As individuals rediscover and reconnect with one another and God, it becomes personally and vividly clear why it is a “spiritual” retreat center. 

“Circle Lake is a place that provides peace where love takes on a new height and the territory of selfless service is enlarged,” Vacek said. “Individuals step into a new destiny in ministry, discipleship and healing. The true and undying love of God and the freshness of the Holy Spirit move within me every time I come to Circle Lake; our Lord manifests Himself in ways that we have never experienced before.”

According to Bustillo, what makes the Family Retreat Center different than other retreat facilities operating in the Archdiocese is that Circle Lake, which is owned and operated by the Archdiocese, is a hosting facility. As opposed to center staff presenting programs, groups or organizations using the facilities present programs specific to their own needs. 

Programs such as ACTS, Journey to Damascus, Rachel’s Vineyard, parish-directed family retreats, and individual-directed family celebrations make up the majority of weekend guests. Weekday guests include retreats for Catholic schools and teachers, senior citizens, self-directed spiritual retreats, and priest and religious discernment retreats. 

“With the family in mind, the design of the center was focused on building individual homes where families could stay together while on retreat. This is unique in the Archdiocese as most retreat centers traditionally provide housing for retreatants in individual private quarters,” Bustillo said.

Bustillo stated that each Circle Lake Family housing unit has three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a living room, dining room, fully equipped kitchen and a front porch complete with rockers and swings. The Family Retreat Center has grown from serving 1,500 overnight stays to 20,000 overnight stays in 2014.