AT a time when retreat centres around Australia are suffering financially and closing their doors the Archdiocese of Brisbane has gone against the tide.
The refurbishment and extensions of the Santa Teresa Spirituality Centre are due for completion later this year and Archbishop John Bathersby believes it will be a powerhouse of prayer and wisdom for the life and mission of the archdiocese.
A sod-turning ceremony was held at the site in Ormiston on March 19, with work on the new chapel, bedroom block and renovations to existing buildings due for completion by October 4.
Spirituality programs will remain in abeyance until the work is completed.
Mike Humphrys, Faith and Life Vicariate advisor with the management team, said the Santa Teresa Spirituality Centre was unique.
“All the other retreat centres throughout Australia are owned and run by religious orders and this is owned and administered by the archdiocese,” Mr Humphrys said.
“With increasing financial pressure many retreat centres like (Star of the Sea) Yamba have closed down and that was why the Archbishop was keen to purchase this when the Cenacle Sisters left in 2006.”
Originally known as The Cenacle, Santa Teresa was built by the sisters in 1984 and operated by them until their return to New Zealand.
The 1.7ha site has commanding views of Moreton Bay with the Carmelite Sisters’ monastery and the heritage-listed Ormiston House as its neighbours.
Mr Humphrys said the centre was built on land originally owned by the Carmelites and overlooked Stradbroke Island.
Archbishop Bathersby gave the centre the name “Santa Teresa” to link it to the Carmelite heritage.
“I have chosen the name ‘Santa Teresa Spirituality Centre’ because St Therese of Lisieux (1873-97) was a Carmelite Sister whose life was marked by obedience to God in the simple things in life,” he said.
Archbishop Bathersby said Santa Teresa was also the name of an indigenous parish outside Alice Springs known for the excellence of its art.
“This connection with indigenous people is entirely appropriate because the first Catholic mission in Queensland to our indigenous brothers and sisters was established on nearby Stradbroke Island by Archbishop Polding of Sydney in 1843,” he said.
Archbishop Bathersby said Santa Teresa – the form of the name that is the Italian version of St Therese – was also a model of holiness for young people.
“She is a woman who has achieved holiness already in her young age (she died at age 24); she can illumine the path of youth today, called to bear the Gospel witness to the new generations,” he said.
Director of the centre Jesuit Father Chris Gleeson said the Santa Teresa Spirituality Centre would impart the spirituality of the local Brisbane Church.
“That is Jesus, Communion, Mission,” Fr Gleeson said.
He said that didn’t mean other charisms would not be available.
“Other charisms will be given the opportunity to be visited and prayed about,” Fr Gleeson said.
He said Archbishop Bathersby wanted Santa Teresa to be a house of prayer not a conference centre.
Fr Gleeson who spent many years as a teacher, first in Melbourne and then in Sydney, said while the spirituality retreat had no specific targets it was available to all and programs would be aimed at helping retreatants develop their spiritual lives.
“I still see myself as a teacher teaching people about spirituality and prayer,” he said.
“While we haven’t got any specific targets it will be particularly relevant to leaders in the Church. I don’t mean priest and bishops. I think it is more lay leaders we have in our sights to help them develop their spiritual lives.
“We’ve doubled the accommodation so we will have 20 rooms and about 42 to 44 beds so we can get a good number of people there.
“Married couples, men leaders, women leaders and education leaders – let’s get to the lay leaders and nurture them.”
Fr Gleeson said once the current construction work was completed anyone with a desire to pray would be welcomed.
“As long as there is a genuine desire to learn about prayer, and retreatants are ready to develop that, then there will be a place for them,” he said.
“In the interim we are putting together programs for those who are keen to learn about prayer and those well versed in prayer. There are quite a few preparations we are working on.”