Franciscans to Leave St. Michael’s Retreat in 3 Years

 — Jan. 8, 20148 janv. 2014

Reverend Dennis Vavrek, OFM, Western Canada Provincial for the Franciscans, in a January 2 telephone interview confirmed that Franciscans are leaving St. Michael’s Retreat Ministries. “Like most religious communities in the Western world our numbers are declining and we have two retreat centres. At our chapter meeting in May 2013 the future was discussed and it was decided that we can no longer maintain two retreat centres, that we’d have to leave one and it was decided that we would leave St. Michael’s Retreat in Lumsden on or before the next Chapter meeting which will be in 2016.” St. Michael’s Retreat Ministries celebrated its 50th anniversary during 2013 and the community did not wish to discuss the issue until the end of the anniversary year. The other Retreat facility is Mount St. Francis in Cochrane, Alberta.

Retreat houses do not make money, said Vavrek. St. Michael’s income pays the operating bills but doesn’t make a profit and the Franciscan community, because it owns the building, pays all capital costs.

Vavrek said the ecumenical board of Anglican, Evangelical Lutheran, Roman Catholic faith traditions and representatives from the Franciscans and the Regina Archdiocese will continue to govern but other options are being considered. “Yes, we have sort of tested the waters to see what interest there might be but our number one priority is to find a way to continue as St. Michael’s Retreat Ministries,” said Vavrek.

Cindy Seiferling, Director of St. Michael’s, has worked at the site for 11 years. “It’s understandable considering that their numbers are down. Change is inevitable,” said Seiferling. “We’ve been discussing sustainability for some time so it really didn’t come as a surprise.” It doesn’t have to be a negative thing, said Seiferling. “It’s just change and change can be a good thing. I’m so grateful for the Franciscans. They’re helped so many people and without them there would have been no St. Michael’s.”

Former Director Donna Fischer worked at St. Michael’s for 33 years and still works some of the retreats. She is also Chair of the Friends of St. Michael’s, an informal group that supports St. Michael’s through fund raising and other efforts. “Firstly I was sad, because we have this long wonderful tradition but being their and watching the Friars age and seeing the younger ones are not interested in retreat ministry, I wasn’t surprised.”

Vavrek said several options are being considered but the priority is for St. Michael’s to continue in some form. “It is the only retreat centre in Southern Saskatchewan and it is a busy retreat centre with a loyal and dedicated staff.” Three Franciscans, Brothers Gerry Clyne and Dominic Tessier along with Father Michael Conaghan remain at St.Michael’s and are expected to remain there until about the middle of 2015, said Vavrek. Two other Franciscans reside at Regina’s Santa Maria Senior Citizens Home.

Posted: Jan. 8, 2014 • Permanent link:
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