The Capuchin Order is known for its balance between contemplative life and active ministry; a balance between Martha and Mary in the Gospel. As Assistant Director Julius Milton, OFM Cap. explains: “The Capuchin Province of St. Joseph is known for its massive soup kitchen ministries in the Detroit and Milwaukee areas, which are the expressions of our active ministry to the poor, where the Capuchin Friars become Martha."
"The Capuchin Retreat Center is the expression of our contemplative life, where the Capuchin Friars become Mary and help others to do the same. The Capuchin Retreat Center contributes to that Franciscan balance within the province, being Martha and Mary; it's not either/or, but both. The world and the Church need them both for the building up of God’s kingdom.”
The Capuchin Retreat Center, a place for spiritual renewal, offers retreats for guests to come and spiritually rejuvenate themselves. Weekend retreats, which are
silent and make up most of the retreats held at the center, run from September to May. The theme this year is “In the Footsteps of St. Francis of Assisi.” Capuchin Retreat's 95 acres of stunning natural landscape in Washington, Michigan offers solitude. There are walking trails and a pond where a bronze sculpture of St. Francis receiving the stigmata will soon be placed facing the cross. Additionally, outdoor Stations of the Cross and events like advent prayer walks are available. While the landscape is beautiful and adds to the experience of our guests, the retreat is, as Director Vito Martinez, OFM Cap. calls it, “an opportunity for renewal as well as an opportunity for people to process different stages of their life."
Guests at Capuchin Retreat develop a sense of refilling their spiritual reservoir. Retreatants often arrive feeling depleted or just tired spiritually. They come away with a renewed sense of mission, of being sent forward with new opportunities to be closer with the Lord.
Even though most of the retreats are silent, there are particular times for retreatants to talk—like the first dinner and during an o ptional individual meeting with a friar. These times are limited, so that guests can fully embrace the retreat experience. As Br. Julius says, “St. Francis always went to the mountains to pray. He was serving the lepers and being with his brothers, who were difficult at times. He would always pray, and it's in the solitude he found peace.” Br. Julius added that Jesus, who experienced frustration with those who didn’t understand His teachings, and religious leaders who constantly challenged Him, “runs to the mountains to be by himself.” He continues: “There is, in the Gospel, that importance for solitude, where silence is the language of God.”
The ministry has provided guests with a deep spiritual experience, as Br. Vito says: “People have come here to experience healing and reconciliation. Retreatants carrying some pretty heavy crosses will lay them at the foot of the cross by our pond. Symbolically and spiritually they hand over the burdens of their lives to encounter consolation, tranquility and peace.” One retreatant said, “This is one of the most profound spiritual experiences I’ve had in my sixty years.”
Br. Vito summarizes the retreat center by saying, “It’s a unique ministry in the fact that normally we feel like we're handing something to somebody, whether it's an article of clothing, food, or perhaps a bus ticket. Here, we're providing the sanctuary of God's creation for people to encounter that mercy and support that comes from growing closer in relationship to Christ.”
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