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70 Years as a Place of Peace

Posted by Administrator (admin) on Nov 08 2017
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The world was a different place when St. Francis Center for Renewal opened its doors in 1948 – then as St. Francis Retreat House. The Center continues to thrive because the need for renewed spirituality, peace and healing remains.

In 2018, the School Sisters of St. Francis’ ministry at St. Francis Center for Renewal in Bethlehem, Pa., will mark its 70th anniversary of bringing quality spiritual programming to Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley and beyond.

Back in April 1948 when the first retreats were offered, the sisters actually moved out of the convent to make way for the retreatants, and an enduring ministry was born.

The tides turned in October 1955 when 2,000 people joined Sister M. Gerard Lampl, then director of the Retreat Center, and our sisters as the Right Rev. Msgr. Leo Fink blessed the cornerstone of a dedicated retreat center and academy building. 

This paved the way for increased programming in a facility that lends itself to peaceful overnight stays and can accommodate large or small groups. Today, the Center offers many programs of its own and hosts countless others each year.

The program began exclusively as a Catholic endeavor but has grown over the decades into an oasis for people of all faiths. The Renewal Center team prides itself on presenting a welcoming atmosphere for and honoring the traditions of all groups, whether it be local high school students, a parish community or Buddhist retreatants. 

"Those who come to our retreat center feel God's presence as soon as they ascend our hill," says Sister M. Virginelle Makos.

Programming ranges from Simply Prayer gatherings to weeklong retreats for groups of all ages. There are marriage encounter weekends, yoga classes, quilting and rug braiding workshops, book and film studies, crafts and baking classes, parish retreats, international music workshops, and programs that raise awareness about critical social justice issues in our world. 

Today more than 8,000 annual visitors of all faiths are drawn here, not only because of the beauty of the surroundings, but also because of the Franciscan spirit of peace that permeates the Center.

“All really are welcome here,” says Sister Barbara DeStefano. “And because of that lived warmth and hospitality, we have been recipients of many blessings.”

BELOW: Early retreatants gather for a photo in the summer of 1954.

Last changed: May 08 2018 at 1:14 PM


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