April 15, 2020
At the Sacred Heart Retreat House, we are experiencing a time of both hardship and renewal. In a “normal” year, typically there are anywhere from 13,000-14,000 people walking through our doors. Ages range anywhere from little tykes at our family nights, to teenagers coming for their school retreat, to men and women of all ages, priests and religious sisters, as well as people from many other faith denominations.
Due to COVID-19, our Sacred Heart Retreat House closed both its campuses mid-March. All but two of our employees have been furloughed and for those furloughed, they received 60% of their wages for as long as we were able. With no income coming in, it is no longer a possibility for us. Our co-workers are family to us and so this is a sorrow for our sisters who serve here as it is for our lay people.
Our sisters on-site have taken over the upkeep of the campus, including the mowing of lawns (as soon as we could figure out how to turn it on – though in our defense it is an OLD lawnmower!), the weeding of our many gardens, the cleaning and maintaining of all buildings, etc. It is all being done in loving preparation for our many retreatants and guests who will return in the future.
Concerted efforts are being placed into engaging with our retreatants, their families, our many volunteers, our donors, beloved priests and most especially our retreat captains. Our 230 captains are the backbone of our weekend retreat model. They facilitate our interaction with 180 parishes throughout California and Nevada. We have been deeply touched by the outpouring of support from so many of our friends. Our retreat captains have taken it upon themselves at this time to keep the retreat spirit alive so that when our doors do re-open, there will be a stronger connection between our retreatants and the Sacred Heart Retreat House.
Like everyone else, we have moved into the virtual world. Our virtual weekend retreats have exploded. Starting our first “retreat” with a “small” intimate group of 600+, we are expecting over 1,000 for the upcoming retreat on Divine Mercy weekend.
Despite the challenges, hardships, and uncertaintiess COVID-19 has left in its wake, there are so many blessings for which we must be thankful. Easter still came and we celebrated our Lord’s Resurrection; spring has sprung with new life all around us; through technology we are still able to connect and stay in touch with family and friends; a refocusing of priorities and turning back to God. Indeed, in these past few weeks, we have seen a deep desire among people to connect with our Lord, seeking peace of mind and heart during these days of isolation and fear. People all around the world are resonating with what we offer…an oasis of peace in which to reconnect with God, and a renewal of the soul. So we will be here at Sacred Heart Retreat House encouraging all who come to us – virtually for now, and in time, with open doors. Yes, there are many blessings, perhaps not in the manner we expected them, but they are there nonetheless. For this, we praise and thank God..