March 15, 2020
Dear Friends of Rosaryville Spirit-Life Center,
As Lent unfolds for us these days, we bring to you some regrettable news, but at the same time, with a sense of gratitude for the abundance of grace that has been given.
The Leadership Team of the Dominican Sisters of Peace have been involved in on-going conversation with Suzette Callais, Director, and the members of the Board of Directors at Rosaryville for some time now. We have had a number of concerns about the sustainability of the retreat ministry there and its capacity to continue in the future. At the same time, we are very well aware of the immense affection the people of the Baton Rouge Diocese and beyond have for Rosaryville and the thousands of people who have been blessed and changed by their experiences there. So we walk softly on this holy ground.
Our concerns include three major areas:
· There is no foreseeable path in which the Dominican Sisters of Peace could continue to provide the leadership, oversight, and capacity, the Retreat Center will need in the future.
· The physical limits of the aging facilities, including the need for a new sewer system, the limited number of private bathrooms, the limited handicap accessibility and deferred maintenance are insurmountable.
· The economic model of the Spirit-Life Center cannot keep up with deferred maintenance, pay a living wage to its staff, and provide the kind of programming that is affordable to its retreatants without a substantial subsidy from the Congregation. This continuing substantial financial support from the Congregation is not sustainable. In addition, even if programs were held every day of the year, the income would not be adequate to maintain the cost of buildings and lands.
Given these challenges, and after careful study and consultation, the Leadership Team has come to the decision to close the retreat ministry at Rosaryville Spirit-Life Center by December 31, 2020.
We are deeply pained to bring you this unwelcome news. At the same time, we believe that new possibilities may emerge for some of the high ground and the retreat center itself. We are exploring new options. Our intention is to conserve the wetlands in perpetuity. We will also preserve access to and perpetual care of the cemeteries of the Sisters and the Dominican Friars. We will continue to explore options for the public cemetery as well.
The beautiful history, vital ministry, and inviting landscape of Rosaryville is a precious legacy. As you may know, in 1939 Rosaryville became the novitiate and retirement home of the Dominican Sisters, Congregation of St. Mary (now the Dominican Sisters of Peace). Like many properties that belong to women religious, Rosaryville’s mission has evolved over the years. In 1946, Rosaryville included a residence for girls interested in becoming Dominican sisters. Camp Kateri, our youth camp, was opened in 1969 and in 1981 Rosaryville Spirit Life Center was established. Over its storied history, the retreat and conference center staff ministered to adults and youth, providing a nurturing environment that offered a welcome place to know the love of God, to better understand self, respond to the needs of our neighbor and deepen respect for all of creation.
We are grateful to the Director, Suzette Callais and the Board of Director for their honesty in embracing a difficult reality and in facing the future with courage. Aware that the Covid-19 coronavirus is foremost in our minds and hearts, these days, we hope that retreats that are planned for the rest of 2020 can take place, especially the Kateri youth camp. Of course, this is a day-to-day situation and circumstances are changing even as you read this letter. Our prayers are with everyone in Ponchatoula and around the world.
We will continue to keep you informed of developments and ways in which we can express our gratitude for all that has been accomplished at Spirit-Life Center and celebrate the legacy of those who have ministered here.
Dominican Sisters of Peace
Sr. Pat Twohill, OP
Sr. Therese Leckert, OP
Sr. Gemma Doll, OP
Sr. Gene Poore, OP
Sr. Anne Lythgoe, OP