Peace among the Pines: Retreat center serves those hungry for a deeper encounter with God
March 22, 2022
40 miles north of downtown Houston, Circle Lake Retreat Center offers a natural oasis of quiet reflection and spiritual rebirth on a 43-acre tract of land in the Pine Woods. (Photo by Circle Lake Retreat Center)
HOUSTON — In the Gospels, when great multitudes of people gathered to hear Jesus preach and be spiritually and physically nourished, He repeatedly took time away to go into the wilderness to pray in solitude and quiet.
To follow Jesus’s example, the Church encourages the faithful to regularly attend spiritual retreats to enter more deeply into an authentic relationship with God and leave daily distractions and busy-ness behind.
Even the pope, clergy and religious are required to go on annual retreats to be spiritually fed. Pope Francis said, before leaving for his own retreat in 2014, “Those who live a retreat in an authentic way experience the attraction and fascination of God and return renewed and transfigured in their daily lives, their ministry and their relationships.”
To get the full retreat experience, the faithful in the Archdiocese do not have to travel far to encounter God in the wilderness. Circle Lake Retreat Center (CLR) is located 40 miles north of downtown Houston on a 43-acre tract in the piney woods.
“Our beautiful retreat facility has catered to the needs of family and friends of the Archdiocese for over 20 years,” said Ricardo Medina, director of Family Life Ministry and CLR. “We provide a tranquil, peaceful retreat experience for families, parish ministries, and other small and large groups that want a holy place to reconnect with God through nature, in silence, and with each other to grow in community and faith.”
Currently, CLR has a maximum capacity of 146 people and offers 18 fully furnished homes for lodging, Holy Spirit Chapel for Mass and prayer, a fully equipped kitchen and dining hall for three meals a day, and spacious meeting facilities. Those using the facilities enjoy landscaped gardens and nature trails, 15-acres of stocked lakes for fishing and canoeing, a spacious recreational area for sports and outdoor activities, a well-equipped playground, and a fire pit and large outdoor film screen for evening entertainment.
“Because of the pandemic over the past two years, people need a place to come together to celebrate their faith and special life events,” said Medina. “Circle Lake is a beautiful place surrounded by nature that gives them space for a deeper encounter with God, both silent and meditative prayer, as well as time for fellowship and community.
Medina said the facilities have been improved over the last two decades, including recent additions made over the past six months.
“Based on feedback from past participants, there was a desire for more comprehensive services provided by the retreat center, so we are now focusing on offering an enhanced experience overall, including excellent customer service from the staff in taking care of their needs and requests,” said Medina. “We want to keep their precious time spent at Circle Lake in ministry and in communion with God and others. Let us focus on the details, logistics and event programming ideas to help make this the best experience possible for all.”
A popular request was the option for full-service food catering that now includes menu planning, meal preparation and cooking, full-service service staff, and cleaning. Medina said this allows the retreat staff and event coordinators to focus more on their own personal experience and time to connect with others versus dealing with time-consuming logistical details.
“Groups that want to celebrate Mass during the event at the Holy Spirit Chapel or want help planning the retreat program to help take the retreat experience deeper for all involved also may request assistance from the Family Life Ministry staff,” said Medina.
In addition to parish retreats, meetings and days of prayer, the facilities may be used for wedding receptions and anniversary celebrations, family reunions, birthday parties, and other activities that bring families and friends together in fellowship. This includes field trips for scouts and school groups that want to explore the abundance of vegetation, wildlife and insects throughout the grounds.
“We also can host multiple events at the same time, so we strongly encourage people to reach out to us to see if the facilities are available for their day or overnight event,” said Medina. “Our staff is here to help with brainstorming ideas and overall planning to enhance their total experience.”
CLR and a second facility operated by the Family Life Ministry, Cameron Retreat Center located in downtown Houston, are included in 60-plus ministries supported by the annual Diocesan Services Fund (DSF). Medina said these facilities remain operational and regularly maintained due to the generous financial support of the faithful.
If additional funding were available through the DSF, Medina said they would be able to hire additional staff and cover high overhead costs associated with maintaining CLR’s facilities and grounds in its remote, wooded location. Also, the Family Life Ministry would like to host additional retreats to strengthen marriages and families in the Archdiocese. Currently, its Evangelizing Couples Retreat is offered twice a year for leaders and ministers in this Church movement.
“Sometimes we don’t realize that we need a break and find ourselves disconnected in our relationships with the Lord, our families, and those we minister to within our parishes,” said Medina. “We are wounded, experience afflictions, and feel a sense of loss or consolation at times. The DSF allows us to offer Circle Lake to parishes and families that need this precious time together to experience a deeper encounter with Christ and grow in faith and fellowship with one another.”
To learn more about the services and available schedule and costs to reserve CLR’s facilities, contact Lupita Ponce at email@example.com or visit www.archgh.org/circlelake.
To contribute to the 2022 Annual DSF Appeal that supports CLR and over 60 other ministries go to archgh.org/dsf. Out of each gift given to DSF, 100% of every dollar goes directly to supporting these ministries. †