Construction on new retreat center nears completion
Hoyas will soon contemplate cloud formations and mountain peaks in Virginia.
After years of delays and litigation, the Calcagnini Contemplative Center is finally expected to be open for use by the fall of 2013.
Set in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Clarke County, Virginia, the land for the center was purchased so that Georgetown would own its very own retreat setting, and would not have to book all its retreats from other centers.
Although the property was bought in 2005, construction could not begin until this past year, due to opposition from Clarke County residents, who feared that a Georgetown retreat center in the area would promote too much traffic and development. There was also significant concern for the protection of an historic farmhouse which rests on the property.
But, according to Fr. Kevin O’Brien, S.J., the Vice President for Mission and Ministry, this farmhouse will remain preserved.
“We were able to preserve an historic property, a farmhouse, that was on the site and incorporate it into our Center. We recognized the importance of this historic building to the local community and incorporating it into our designs provides a visual and physical reminder of the past and the history of the property,” he said.
Fr. O’Brien stressed that the serenity and beauty of the center’s setting made it an “ideal property”, and this was the primary reason that so much time was taken to ensure that Georgetown could build the center there.
“The site inspires contemplation, which is very much needed by those of us who live a frenetic pace on campus. The physical buildings will provide a warm, comfortable environment for students, alumni, faculty, and staff to gather,” Fr. O’Brien said.
Although the settlement Georgetown reached with the Clarke County Board of Supervisors limits the total number of students who can be in the center at any time, and the total number of vehicle trips to the center per year, Fr. O’Brien stated that this would not interfere with Mission and Ministry’s plans.
“Our agreement with Clarke County allows us to host all of the retreats and ESCAPE overnights currently on our schedule,” he said.
Fr. O’Brien also revealed the possibility of new retreats, now that Georgetown will have its own retreat house.
“The Center will be used not only for ESCAPE overnights and Ignatian retreats, but for retreats facilitated by the Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, and Orthodox chaplaincies. We hope to develop an interfaith retreat to be hosted on the property,” he said.
The first set of retreats in the fall of 2013 will serve as a “test run” for future ones. Fr. O’Brien expects the center to be completely open in either the following winter or spring.
Photo by Flickr user eleda 1 through Creative Commons