So this December, on the site of the former Wellandport Christian School, Gethsemane Ministries will open The Divine Retreat Centre Canada.
“We took the cross in the sky as sign that it would be the right place for the centre we wanted to start,” said Dominic, founder and president of Gethsemane Ministries. “We also liked the location since it was a beautiful and quiet place ideal for prayer contemplation.”
The Divine Retreat Centre, in the town of Wellandport, Ont., will provide retreats for Catholics primarily in the dioceses of St. Catharines, Hamilton and Toronto.
“I believe it is going to be one of the best Catholic retreat centres among these three diocese,” said Dominic.
He also hopes the new retreat centre will be popular with New York and Michigan Catholics who currently attend his Gethsemane Ministries events.
Gethsemane Ministries is a lay Catholic movement approved by the Archdiocese of Toronto and the Diocese of St. Catharines. For 17 years it has been in the business of evangelization. It began when a few families gathered for spiritual formation and fellowship in the basement of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Convent on Jane Street in Toronto.
So it was fitting that the property for the new retreat centre was purchased last year on July 16, the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. The 23,500 square-foot Divine Retreat Centre sits on 1.6 hectares of land on the banks of the Welland River.
“Most people live in a very crowded city or urban setting where everything is very noisy and people are so busy,” said Dominic. “We really need to have a mindset away from our busy life. That is the whole idea of choosing this place away from the whole city busy schedule.”
The cost of the property with renovations is estimated to be $3.75 million, said Dominic, funded by loans and donations from Gethsemane Ministries members in addition to a bank loan. The Divine Retreat Centre is expected to be fully functional by December.
Renovations include the addition of a second floor, a chapel for 150 people, a retreat hall for 350, a second hall for 150, a dining facility for 350, two conference rooms, a youth activity room, counselling rooms and a religious articles store. The centre does not have living quarters, says Dominic, but his ministry has made a deal with a nearby hotel regarding accommodations.
Gethsemane currently runs weekly youth and adult prayer meetings in Toronto’s St. Basil the Great Catholic School, youth summer camp and 10 to 12 retreat events a year, including a three-day overnight retreat for youth and adults. Its fall retreats attract 1,000 to 1,200 participants. At the Divine Retreat Centre, the organization will run regular retreats for married couples, inner healing retreats, faith formation programs and more.
“The whole purpose of this centre is to help our mission to evangelization,” said Dominic. “We have a very active youth ministry (and) adult ministry and we do a lot of reaching out to other groups.”
Space at the centre will be also available for rent by outside organizations.
“We definitely want to help other Catholic organizations... If our schedule permits, then we will definitely be able to make the place available for them,” said Dominic.
For more information, visit prayergroup.ca or call 647-560- 4556.