An Introduction to Christian Retreat Centers in Alberta

St. Francis of a Assisi - a 12th century bad boy turned good, dedicating his life to the poor. Photo by R-M Arca.

Spiritual retreats provide an opportunity for spiritual rejuvenation. Learn about 5 Albertan Christian retreat centers that welcome people of all faiths.

There are several Christian spiritual retreats in Alberta for those seeking spiritual renewal, counseling and growth. Although rooted in the Christian faith, these facilities are ecumenical, welcoming people of all walks of life. This is an introduction to 5 Christian retreat centers in the province: The FCJ Christian Life Centre, Martha Retreat Centre, Mount St. Francis Retreat Centre, The Providence Renewal Centre and Sanctum Retreat.

The FCJ Christian Life Centre in Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Peaceful Surroundings

The Faithful Companions of Jesus at Sacred Heart Convent began their ministry in 1885 by running an all-girls’ boarding school. In 1980, after extensive renovations, the FCJ Christian Life Centre opened its retreat and conference centre. In addition to retreats and sabbaticals, the Centre offers ecumenical spiritual counseling, workshops, parish outreach and specialized programs for lay ministry.

The Centre has accommodation for 52 overnight guests with complimentary laundry facilities. There are also 3 conference rooms, 3 dining rooms, a library, seasonal labyrinth, chapel, grotto and a mediation garden.

Visitors can take advantage of the holistic services available, including massage, reflexology, healing touch and Reiki. Membership to the Centre is $10/year, which grants members access to the extensive library. Costs for workshops and retreats are listed on the FCJ Centre’s website.

Martha Retreat Centre in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada

The Martha Retreat Centre is operated by the Sisters of St. Martha. The Marthas offer four types of programs: A Time to Pray, A Time to Reflect, A Time to Be Companion on the Journey (spiritual coaching) and Retreats.

There are four opportunities for prayer at the Centre. There is daily prayer, weekly centering prayer, monthly Taize prayer and monthly Eucharistic Adoration.

The Centre offers Oasis Days, workshops on prayer, spirituality, health, wellness and healing. There are two programs dedicated to men’s spirituality.

Three types of retreats are offered at the Martha Retreat Centre: private retreats, weekend retreats tied to the liturgical year and longer retreats (both silent and preached retreats). A list of current prices is available on the Martha Retreat Centre ’s website.

Mount St. Francis Retreat Centre in Cochrane, Alberta, Canada

The Mount was founded in 1949 and is run by the Order of the Franciscans. The facility lies on approximately 500 acres. Retreatants of all faiths can reflect outdoors, following the Stations of the Cross, sit and enjoy the breathtaking view of the Rocky Mountains, pray in the chapel or curl up and read a book from the lending library or bookstore.

The Centre offers three types of spiritual retreats. There are weekend retreats, midweek twilight retreats and individual silent retreats. Each year, the Centre chooses a retreat theme which is reflected in all its programming. For instance, the theme for 2010/11 is “Life’s Spiritual Journey”. Some of weekend retreats are geared towards specific groups, such as women’s retreats, couples retreats, men’s retreats, and clergy retreats.

There are single rooms with a shared bathroom in the main building. In 2009, the former convent was renovated. Renamed “St. Elizabeth Place” after the Sisters who resided there for 50 years, this building contains six bedrooms, a large meeting room and kitchenette.

For those who want a desert or private retreat, guests can book the Friar Paul Surette Hermitage. This log cabin is sparsely furnished with a bed, table, chair and wood-burning stove.

There is no set fee for retreats. However, a list of the Centre’s costs per person is listed on Mount St. Francis’ website. Guests are given a blank envelope to include their contribution. Those who can contribute above the listed cost receive a tax receipt. Their donations help cover the costs for those who cannot afford the full amount.

The Providence Renewal Centre in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

The Providence Renewal Centre was founded in 1985. Built on 20 acres of land, retreatants can walk and reflect on the Centres various walkways or meditate in the fountain garden or seasonal labyrinth. Guests can attend day sessions or book a room for longer stays.

The Centre’s programming focuses on Christ-centered spirituality for individuals, groups and organizations. The programs fall into 6 general categories: prayer, liturgical seasons, weekends away, special interest, clubs and health and wellness.

The Centre offers weekly yoga classes and holistic services such as Reiki, therapeutic massage and acupressure. Providence also offers private retreats, sabbaticals and counseling with a spiritual director. There are 21 private suites (with ensuite bathroom) and 30 single rooms (with a shared bathroom).

The Centre requires at least 3 days’ prior notice for private retreat bookings with meals included. Current prices for workshops and retreats are listed on Providence Renewal Centre’s website. Guests can pay by credit card, cheque or cash. Costs for those who are in financial need are subsidized through donations..

The Centre has conference facilities for conventions, team building and special functions. Their meeting rooms and auditorium can accommodate groups from 6 to 325 people

Sanctum Retreat Centre in Caroline, Alberta, Canada

Founded by Catholic lay theologians Mariette and Kristoph Dobrowlski, the Sanctum Retreat Centre opened its doors in 2004. Although rooted in Catholic Christianity, people of all faiths are welcome.

They offer three types of retreats: silent spiritual retreats, silent weekend retreats and midweek retreats. Like Mount St. Francis, there are specialized retreats for specific groups, including couples, clergy, men and women.

Sanctum lies on 100 acres of land. Retreatants can borrow items from the lending library, relax in the outdoor spa, pray in the chapel or go hiking or fishing. The Stations of the Cross wind up the hill, while a series of four loops forge an outdoor Rosary path.

The facility has 33 private bedrooms with an en suite bath and three hermitage cabins. There is a solarium dining room as well as a common kitchen area.

Sanctum also has conference facilities and can be booked for team building and leadership workshops, professional development and lay ministry and formation meetings.

Like Mount St. Francis, there is no set fee for retreats at the Sanctum Retreat Centre. Donations above the basic cost go towards covering the cost of a retreatant who is in financial need.

For people who are seeking spiritual renewal and growth, spiritual retreats provide an opportunity for them to reflect and pray, seek spiritual direction and fill up their spiritual “gas tanks”. These Christian retreat centers highlighted are just a sampling of what is available for people of all faiths. From retreats to workshops, from massage to spiritual coaching and from conference facilities to walking paths, there is something for everyone who seeks to rest and recharge their body, mind and soul.

Originally published November 18, 2010 on Suite101.com. Updated on March 23, 2013. All rights reserved by Rhona-Mae Arca.