Just as God needed time for rest, so must priests and the time to step back from their ministry and see the good.
This is why the Serra Foundation of Canada has launched a new program for priests in the Archdiocese of Toronto called the Serra Priests Florida Retreat Program.
George Damiani, chair of the program, said that Serra Canada has created a great opportunity through the program to give Toronto clergy their well-deserved rest.
“They’re working day and night. They’re working 24/7 and this is an opportunity for them to get some rest and retreat,” he said.
For $60 per night, the program provides Toronto priests access to two designated guest rooms in the St. Vincent de Paul Seminary in Boynton Beach, Florida, at any time of the year, to spend a few days on vacation.
The St. Vincent de Paul Seminary is a newly renovated seminary owned by the seven dioceses in Florida. It is located on a private 28-hectare property near Florida’s Atlantic coast with a private lake and a variety of amenities, including a gym and an Olympic-sized pool.
“It’s a wonderful place,” said Fr. Peter Lackmanec, pastor at Our Lady of Annunciation parish in Richmond Hill. “It’s kind of like the Taj Mahal of seminaries.”
Lackmanec was one the first priests to visit the seminary through the program. He said the program is “extremely important” because due to parish duties, not many priests can take a day off.
For those that can get a day off, they are working in their ministry during all hours of the day, but it’s still six days a week, with modest pay. Because of the program, priests have an encouraging and affordable option for a holiday and much-need rejuvenation.
“In order for us to do our ministry properly, we need to be rested up and we need to take our holidays,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity and it’s a nice peaceful place, as well.”
Though the program was created for rest and retreat for priests, it is not necessarily a program for spiritual retreat. Fr. Edwin Gonsalves, rector at Toronto’s St. Augustine’s Seminary, said the program is a wonderful vacation place that is also within the context of prayer and refection in a religious environment.
“You get to see Florida and you can enjoy the beaches, but you also have the wonderful grounds there just to get away and reflect on your ministry as a priest,” said Gonsalves. “Seeing where God is leading you or even what needs conversion, asking God to strengthen us and restore us.”
The program offcially launched in December. Damiani hopes priests take advantage of this program to renew themselves to better carry out their religious duties.