Just another Weekend – By David Drude

It is hard to explain how making a 3 day retreat can impact your life, but I will do my best to help you understand.  Life has a way of complicating most events, even the best of them.

If you are on the giving side of a retreat, it starts off with weeks of preparation.  Planning talks, organizing materials and food, trying to anticipate what you will need to make this retreat a successful one.   There are spiritual pushups, prayer, fasting, and reconciliation.  You have to make sure there are enough team members and of course will there be the all-important candidates.  There are priests and deacons to invite and coordinate times.  All of the things that we have done before but this time seem more critical.

Finally it is time to leave for Rosaryville.  You’ve tied up all the loose ends at work, taken care of all of the family, and finally you are off.  When you turn into those wrought iron gates and drive up that long moss covered tree lined drive, you experience a warm and calming feeling that encompasses your whole being.  You know you have made it and the world will just have to wait for a couple of days until you get back.

You enter the main building and find your room.  You unpack your stuff and put away your cell phone and watch, because you are on Gods time now and even though it hurts a little (or a lot), you know the routine and how letting go of the world is a very important part of a successful retreat.  It’s time to set up all of the rooms and get out the supplies.  You get everything in place just in time for the first candidates to arrive.

Now the real marathon begins.  You have talks and group sharing.  There are services, meals, and songs all late into the night.  There are special times for quiet moments when it is just you and God and there are chances to share your story or to listen to others share with you.

Before you know what has happened, the weekend has past and it is time to reflect on how your whole perspective has changed.  Things that were important to you whether they be fears or pleasures are not so intense, what matters most is faith and family.  You have this inner calm about you and your life.  There is almost an aura of peace and tranquility, of safety and inner strength that you did not have before.

What you have found my friend is the Holy Spirit.  You realize that no matter what you thought before, it was God who has invited you to this retreat, and it was your job to get out of his way and let Him work on your life.   The blessings that you have received were His gift to you for taking the time to say YES to his call.

If you feel that you need the blessings of the Holy Spirit in your life, if work and family and life are weighing you down, then take time to say YES to God and allow him some time to reset your life.

I wish you peace and blessings from Rosaryville and St. Dominics’ Mens Emmaus Retreat.

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Remembering Rosaryville: Sr. Joel Gubler, OP recalls Rosaryville’s rich history

By: Sr. Joel Gubler, OP

The holy grounds of Rosaryville have existed since 1890, when  Benedictine monks  from St. Meinrad Seminary in Indiana, at the request of Archbishop Janssens of New Orleans, arrived by boat to establish a monastery in Louisiana. It was given the biblical name, Gessen.

Young men were prepared for the priesthood and religious life on grounds they cleared within 2,000 acres of pine and oak forests, near the present towns of Springfield and Ponchatoula.  The three-story building they constructed for their housing contained small adjacent rooms facing north and south, opening to galleries which ran the length of the building. With inadequate tools they skillfully drilled a deep well from which artesian water has continued to flow. Because they lacked electricity for refrigeration, a storage space was dug in the ground four feet deep, where, in that cool temperature, they stored the food they harvested. This  ancient underground refrigerator was discovered in 1974.

After a decade of struggling without proper equipment for farming, as well as poor soil and troublesome mosquitoes, the monks sought elsewhere for the establishment of a monastery. They settled on the grounds of what is presently St. Benedict, Louisiana, near Covington, establishing St. Joseph Seminary and Abbey.

Meanwhile, civil strife in Spain made the Dominican Fathers decide to place their House of Philosophy for students preparing for the missions of the Far East somewhere in America. This way, the students would not be interrupted by compulsory military training. Father Thomas Lorente of the Holy Rosary Province negotiated with the Benedictines to purchase Gessen, and in 1911 their new institution was established and renamed Rosaryville.

The Dominicans renovated and added to what was built by the Benedictines while their students continued their studies and the priests ventured out to minister to the Churches of Amite, Independence, Tickfaw, Hammond, and  Ponchatoula.

Eventually, as the war in Spain continued to claim the lives of the friars and young students there, the Dominicans found it necessary to recall their men to Spain to fill the immediate needs. Almost a century later the remains of those young Dominicans who lost their lives during that war were returned to Rosaryville to rest with their brothers in the Father’s’ cemetery.

Knowing that the St. Mary’s Dominican Sisters in New Orleans were considering moving their novitiate out of the city at that time, the priests gave them the first option on Rosaryville. In 1939 the prioress, Mother Catherine Delany, acquired the property for $6,000 for their novitiate, which included an extension of Dominican College for those in formation, as well as housing for the retired Sisters. In 1946 an Aspirature for high school girls interested in religious life was added. Four years later the remains of the Sisters buried in New Orleans were transferred to the Rosaryville cemetery.

To the the buildings  constructed by the monks and friars, was added Rosary Hall in 1955 – a three-srory brick structure containing a large chapel, dormitory, dining room, kitchen, and parlors.  In earlier years, the Sisters, knowing that shrines were needed to enhance the grounds, had raised funds to construct a large stone grotto in which they placed a statue of Our Lady of Lourdes, with St. Bernadette at her feet. Later, benefactors supplied funds for a pond and waterfall, to which has been added gardens.

Modernization of the grounds was to continue in the 1960’s with the addition of a two-acre lake and an olympic-sized pool, as well as shrines of Our Lady of Fatima, St. Joseph, St. Dominic, and St. Kateri. The first half of that decade continued to witness the vitality ever-present in Rosaryville’s buildings and on its grounds as bells rang for high school classes, and the postulants, novices, and young professed Sisters went about their spiritual formation and charges, along with attending college classes and caring for the retired Sisters. From the chickens and cows in the barnyard, fresh eggs and milk were always available, and the strawberry crop in the spring enhanced their desserts – especially the homemade ice cream the novices churned outside daily.

Young girls continued to enter not only  Rosaryville’s novitiate, but  those throughout the country in large numbers in order to dedicate their lives to God. During the 1960’s, however, after the Vatican Council in Rome had “opened the windows” to a modern Church enveloped in a new culture and religious mindset, the number of  religious began to drastically decline, and in 1967 the novitiate that had attracted so many young girls for almost thirty years finally closed its doors two years after those of the Aspirature.

A new convent, St. John Hall, had been built in 1966 to relocate the retired Sisters from their ancient wooden structure to the modern facilities of private rooms, a laundry, community room, and small chapel. There they resided for fifteen years before moving into the newly renovated Motherhouse in New Orleans, formerly a dorm on their college campus.

Two years after the closing of the novitiate the Sisters decided to use some of the vacant  facilities for a girls’ summer camp, choosing as its patroness Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha. In 1969 Camp Kateri received its first group of campers, who were housed in the old novitiate building. In an attempt to increase the camp’s enrollment, three Southeastern students offered and were commissioned to build a stable, and the presence of borrowed horses that following summer, along with the closing of Camp St. Gertrude in Covington, tripled the number of campers.

Because of the age and unsafe condition of the novitiate building, the gymnasium which had been built for the high school was renovated in 1975 to house the campers and provide a large indoor activity and dining area. Seven years later the gym was named Kateri Hall, and began  welcoming youth retreats, workshops, and other events that have continued throughout the years, as well as campers every summer.

In 1971 the Dominican Fathers of the southern St. Albert Province made the decision to bury their deceased priests and brothers in the Spanish Fathers’ cemetery which is near that of the sisters on Rosaryville’s grounds. After burials, when the friars in their white Dominican habits leave the cemetery, they and their guests head for a celebratory meal in the Rosary Hall dining room.

In 1981 the Rosaryville Spirit Life Center was established.  Adult retreats and various other spiritual  events continue to take place, as those participating are housed in St. John Hall, where they also assemble for their meetings in the large Conference Room. They attend Mass and have their meals in Rosary Hall, as do the retreatants from Kateri Hall.

Gone now are the wooden three-story buildings, hikes through paths in the woods, the barnyard animals, which included pigs and sheep, the strawberry field, and the happy sounds of young girls in formation anticipating life as a Dominican Sister. What continues,however, is the constant awareness of God’s presence on those holy grounds.

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Rosaryville on the Corner of Salvation and Peace

Rosaryville on the Corner of Salvation and Peace

When I come down that long oak covered drive with its hanging moss, I feel a warm peaceful calm all around me. I can imagine the sisters walking the same path, reading the daily offering or praying the rosary. Sometimes we are blessed with one of Gods wild creatures that roam the grounds and the beautiful flora cared for by the loving hands of Sr. Joel. And so it is with Rosaryville. Whether by the deep calm waters of the lake where young people can fish or canoe or walking the quiet paths following the beautifully carved wooden stations, the grounds all around you bringing forth feelings of warmth and security. Rosaryville is my retreat from this hectic world.

We are so lucky to have such a spiritual resource in our community, to encounter our savior, whether on a group, directed, or private retreat, Rosaryville Spirit Life Center has it all. We have a swimming pool for our guest’s enjoyment, covered areas to picnic, and large grassy areas to play. The Rosaryville Spirit Life Center offers the large chapel in Rosary Hall or the quiet serenity of the Cypress Chapel. There are dozens of isolated spots for meditation surrounded by statues, the grotto, and those beautiful grounds.  Or maybe you need a large meeting space for groups where the kitchen staff can satisfy your culinary needs. We have facilities for large groups of a hundred or individual accommodations for just one.

Come and experience our Rosaryville Spirit Life Center and you too will share the peace and serenity of 80 years of Salvation and Peace devoted to our savior.  #GivingTuesday  #Rosaryville #DominicanSistersofPeace #beauty #Catholic

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The Holy Spirit’s Invitation to Serve at Rosaryville

The pleasure of serving as a volunteer at Rosaryville Spirit Life Center has been personally gratifying, but certainly never was it my plan.  Still, as author Robert Brault wrote, “Sometimes in tragedy we find our life’s purpose.”

The winding path of my personal journey leading to the holy and peaceful grounds of Rosaryville began traumatically 27 years ago in a hospital chapel; September 25, 1990.  While my loving wife, high school sweetheart, and soulmate Sylvia lay in the hospital’s Recovery Room following surgery, I wept uncontrollably, alone in the tiny chapel after being informed of the diagnosis — Stage 3 Ovarian Cancer (OVCA).

Suddenly, I felt a great warmth consume my entire body: my tears immediately halted, and a sense of calmness came over me, for unquestionably at that very moment, I felt the presence of the Holy Spirit.  A reassuring voice peacefully said to me, “Believe in me and she will be saved.”

A few days later, Sylvia and I learned from the Oncologist just how serious the OVCA diagnosis was.  The data suggests only 20% of such patients survives for even five years.  Still, confident in the divine message I heard spoken and had by then shared with Sylvia, we plunged forward. 

Sylvia was a model patient through the nearly two years of chemotherapy.  She joined and was eventually elected to serve as President of the Louisiana Division of the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition (NOCC).  The mission of NOCC is to educate women on the warning signs of this “Silent Killer” for which there is neither a reliable screening test nor a prevention, short of having the ovaries surgically removed prior to the presence of cancer.  

Separately, Sylvia would meet, write, and receive phone calls from women she’d never before met who were similarly diagnosed with OVCA.  As a non-professional 20-year survivor, Sylvia would listen, share experiences, and inspire hope in women who up until then felt doomed.  Through her selfless volunteer work, she unknowingly taught me the meaning of life: serving God through serving others.

In October, 1999, I attended my first retreat at Manresa, a Jesuit retreat house in Convent, Louisiana. There were three nights of silent spiritual reflection where it’s said, “nobody speaks to anybody, and everybody speaks to God.”  The beauty, serenity, and feeling of closeness to God is why I’ve returned every 43rd weekend in October for my annual retreat. 

It was in the Fall of 2007 that Sylvia experienced a recurrence of OVCA.  Obviously, we were devastated, and Sylvia angry. For it was only then Sylvia shared with me that she had prayed during her first chemo treatment in 1990 for the Lord’s grace for 20 more years of life; “We have a deal and it’s only been 17” she protested.

Again, through the grace of God, the physicians were able to maintain Sylvia’s quality of life (and mine) with a new chemotherapy protocol.  Through it all we witnessed in good health the marriages of our three children and births of three grandchildren.  Three years later, however, nearly 20 years from the date of her original diagnosis, another recurrence; this one with a vengeance.  While I tearfully prayed for a miracle, Sylvia without ever shedding a tear resolutely said, “God answered my prayers for a miracle 20 years ago; now I must surrender to Him.”

I continued to work for three years after Sylvia surrendered to the loving arms of our Lord, hoping that by pouring myself into my work it would serve to distract me from my loss.  Finally, I decided it was time to pursue my passion for finding peace and doing what Sylvia had inspired in me, the meaning of life, serving God though serving others.

Shortly after I retired in January 2014, a couple of friends invited me to serve with them on a committee at Rosaryville Spirit Life Center.  I had just a few months earlier moved to nearby Springfield and had never heard of Rosaryville; nonetheless, I decided to attend one of their meetings.

Fast forward three years and I’m delighted to confess I realize a similar peacefulness on each weekly visit to the holy and beautiful grounds of Rosaryville as do I experience annually at Manresa.  Furthermore, with each visit to the property of the Dominican Sisters of Peace, I have the opportunity to serve God through serving others; what is serendipitous is how personally gratifying it’s been for me.

Unquestionably, the golden thread woven through the tapestry of my life over the past 30 years that neatly pulls it all together is the Holy Spirit. #GivingTuesday #HolySpirit #Rosaryville #DominicanSistersofPeace

Dickie and Sylvia with their family.
Dickie with Sr. Joel at a Rosaryville Fund Raiser
Dickie with the Rosaryville Staff for a Christmas Party.
Dickie and Sylvia in High School.
Dickie and Sylvia on their wedding day.
Dickie and Sylvia.
Dickie and Sylvia.

         

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Patterned by God’s Design

A great place to do to a retreat is at Rosaryville Spirit Life Center.  I am remembering one in particular, “Patterned By God’s Design” given by Dr. JoAnn Forbes. I spent the weekend on these holy grounds thinking about my past. We were to bring our favorite quilt and at that time I had one. Each of our quilts had a story. Growing up we were very poor and my mother made us girls our clothing as we got older, but as she became older, it became a task so we got second hand thrift store clothes. When we were adults living our own separate lives my mom said she was making a lap quilt for a family reunion that they would auction off for the highest bidder. The funds were to be given to families to help with the cost of their flights from Germany. My mom never made us girls a quilt. With that idea I really wanted that quilt, we were bound to North Dakota from Louisiana. The bidding began and it became a challenge because somebody across the room wanted that quilt as much as I did. I couldn’t see the person because of all the people. Yes I finally won the bid at $75.00 and back then that was a lot of money for small quilt. Well I found out a few minutes later my little sister and I were the ones bidding over each other. My mom’s says if you wanted a quilt that bad I would have made you both one. I told my story at Rosaryville in the chapel that weekend. It brought tears to my eyes realizing how hard our mom worked for us as children. We thought we were poor kids but the truth is we were blessed to have a mom that cared enough to take time and a lot of hard work to simply just love us. I looked at my beautiful daughter with tears running down her precious face as I told the story. I went and wrapped that quilt around her because, in that quilt that meant so much to me, was so much love holding one my precious gifts in my life my child. Romans 12:2 “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2  #GivingTuesday #livetransformed #Rosaryville #DominicanSistersofPeace #quilts #sewing 

 

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Bringing Forward the Mission of the Dominican Sisters of Peace at Rosaryville

It saddens me to know that there are so few sisters remaining at Rosaryville to carry on their important work, but I am glad to say that there are many fine groups that are trying to keep up the tradition of bringing the word of Jesus Christ to his people.

I have been an educator for 25 years, serving the special needs students of the area.  In that time, I have witnessed many challenging situations that I honestly do not have an answer for.  Our technology rich and possession driven society has removed us from our spiritual roots.

Recently I have worked with one of the groups ministering through the wonderful facility at Rosaryville.  The retreat is based on Saint Lukes Gospel Chapter 24 “The Road to Emmaus”.  While on that retreat, I have witnessed many miracles as lives were changed, even my own.  Every time one of the retreatants shares their story, they tell how the holy grounds of Rosaryville have inspired their encounter with Christ.  I know that I have experienced many such encounters with Christ as I spend time in adoration or praying the rosary as I walked the grounds.

For me there is no better place to serve or to be served.    I keep coming back to have that walk with Jesus in Rosaryville and I know that the sisters are there praying for us also. #emmaus #givingtuesday #miracles #roadtoemmaus #dominicansistersofpeace #rosaryville

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Hearts of Hundreds touched by Rosaryville’s Holy Grounds

Becki Alford, Council of Ministries Director at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Ponchatoula, reflects on her time at Rosaryville as a Youth Minister:
St. Joseph youth have experienced transformation at Rosaryville for over a decade. Rosaryville is truly Holy Ground for many reasons. We have hosted our Kick Off Retreats, Confirmation Retreats, Theology of the Body Retreats, Young Women’s Retreats, Junior High Retreats, and Core Trainings on the property. Many of our youth have attended or staffed Camp Kateri over the years as well. We were given the gift of being able to flex number of participants, schedules, meal times, and resources in a way that filled the valleys and leveled the mountains, making a highway for our God into the hearts of hundreds of teens and the adults who served them.
The chapels became places of encounter as our youth experienced Adoration, Mass, Reconciliation, and prayer ministry with abundant fruit. Some of our teens were so deeply moved in their relationship with Jesus in Rosaryville’s chapel that, years later, they decided to celebrate their Weddings in the main chapel!
Being able to walk the grounds where six Dominican martyrs were formed for Priesthood, has become an endearing and awe inspiring experience as we’ve learned and shared their stories, marveling at the fact that some of those men served our parish.The generosity of the office staff and welcome of the grounds keepers and culinary professionals communicate the providential and lavish love of God to us. We’ve grown to feel as if we are family members returning home each time we host or attend an event there.
Becki with a retreatant at the Diocese Jr. High Retreat in from of Rosary Hall.
St. Joseph Youth Group in Rosaryville Chapel
A small group meets in the Peace Garden.
A small group meeting in St. Dominic Parlor.
The large group meets in St. Joseph Hall.
A retreatant enjoys the pond.
The group spends time in Adoration in Queen of the Most Holy Rosary Chapel.
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David Drude Remembers Rosaryville

Reflection by David Drude, Rosaryville Board Member:

Back in the 60’s, I was enrolled in piano lessons with Sister Mary John at Rosaryville.  This was before St. Johns Hall was built and the old wooden convent had not been torn down yet.  My mom would pick me up from St. Joseph’s Catholic School and bring me down the long winding drive past the Spanish Dominicans cemetery and up to the main building.  She would drop me off and usually come back later.

I would enter from the west side and I remember how large the halls seemed to a kid in the 4th grade.   It always felt cool and so quiet and peaceful in there.  Even in the summer, the thick tile and stucco walls seemed to give off a cool and peaceful feeling.  We didn’t have air conditioning back then.  We had to put up with whatever God provided.  Funny, I don’t remember feeling the heat like we do today.

I would wait in the outer room until Sister entered.  I remember wondering how she could stand all the heat with that habit, but I wasn’t brave enough to ask.  I knew she was old, but to a kid, I did not know for sure.  She would always ask if I had been practicing and I could usually answer “yes” because my mother would see to that.  I’m not sure how long the lessons were, probably 45 minutes to an hour.

One day, another Sister showed up for my lesson.  She said Sister Mary John did not feel well.  Pretty soon, they told me that she would not be able to teach anymore and I didn’t see her again.

Someone called my mom to let us know that Sister had passed and to ask if we would like to come to the funeral.  That was the first time I had been upstairs to the chapel.  All the sisters were there. They gave me a rosary that Sister had left me that had been blessed by the Pope.  I learned that her name had been Kennedy and she was a cousin to President Kennedy.  It made me wonder how someone who had come from such a family, could give it all up and become a nun.

Although I continued taking lessons for several more years, I lost interest in the piano.  I guess I grew out of it.  I never felt that it was cool to play the piano.

I have been lucky to know many of the sisters over the years and I am a little sad to see them moving on with the passage of time.  When I visit, I feel a sense of peace, that they are still wandering those halls in spirit.

Sister is buried in the cemetery at Rosaryville and I try to visit her grave when I am on retreat or just volunteering. It is amazing how little Rosaryville has changed.  I hope that it will continue to be a prayerful place of peace and solitude.

Rosaryville #dominicansistersofpeace #southerndominicans #catholichistory#ponchatoula #louisiana #givingtuesday #supporthistory

If you would like to support our mission please click on the link below:

Want to know more about the Rosaryville Organ? See this link here from the Organ Society http://Organ Society Databasehttp://database.organsociety.org/OrganDetails.php?OrganID=48976

Sr. Mary John Kennedy, OP
Sr. Mary John Kennedy’s grave-site at Rosaryville Sister’s Cemetery.
The Sisters praying in the Original Chapel.
Rosaryville Organ Pipes.
Rosaryville Organ Keys
Rosaryville Sister’s Cemetery Center Crucifix

 

 

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Rosaryville Reflections from Sr. Joel Gubler, OP:

In January of 1955 I left New Orleans to enter the novitiate in Rosaryville, I was twenty years old, and said goodbye to a secretarial job that I loved, and a fiancé that I loved to become a Dominican Sister. On that cold afternoon, I left behind a comfortable home, a closet full of clothes, and my freedom, to enter another world—one of discipline and poverty, and above all, peace.

You can imagine a city girl’s excitement of being surrounded by acres of majestic pines, and an actual barnyard like the movies. The construction of a brand-new building—Rosary Hall—was being added to the old wooden, three-story structures built by the Benedictine monks in the 1800s.

In our new chapel we prayed, sang, and chanted the daily psalms in the midst of a panorama of postulants’ black attire, white habits, and veils of the novices, and white habits and black veils of the sisters who had professed their vows.

Our work in the gardens and the outdoor processions to our various shrines reminded us in a special way that our feet were truly standing on holy ground.

The old buildings are gone, as are the barnyard and the numerous young sisters, but what does still remain for the thousands who continue to be drawn here each year is that “peace which the world cannot give,” which I myself discovered many years ago.

#rosaryville #dominicansistersofpeace #southerndominicans #catholichistory#ponchatoula #louisiana #givingtuesday #supporthistory

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Original buildings of Rosaryville built by the Spanish Dominicans
The gates of Rosaryville. Sr. Hillary Simpson, OP is pictured int he far distance and barely recognized here. To the left is an apostolate and on the right is a novice by the name of Sr. Corrine Ford, OP.
Sr. Joel Gubler, OP with a picture of her two uncles, Fr. Maurice Gubler and Fr. Edwin Gubler. The two men are captured here on the ordination of Fr. Edwin Gubler. Sr. Joel’s grandmother promised God two priest for her children.
Our Lady handing the Rosary to St. Dominic found upstairs in Rosary Hall. (Taken by Susan Hymel)
Rosary Hall with Rosary Walk.
Rosary Chapel, Statue of Our Lady (Taken by Susan Hymel)
Sister’s Cemetery (Taken by Susan Hymel)
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