"A Place of Stillness and Contemplation"

by Jack O’Connell ’81

This is the fruition of a dream,” says the director of the Office of the College Chaplains, Marybeth Kearns-Barrett ’84.

She is referring to the opening of the College’s newest facility, the Thomas P. Joyce ’59 Contemplative Center. Located on a 52-acre site in West Boylston, Massachusestts, the Center is one of the major initiatives of the College’s “Become More” campaign—and is the first capital project to be completed. Just a 20-minute drive from Mount St. James, the Joyce Center will allow expanded and additional retreat and discernment programming for students, alumni, faculty and staff.

Retreats and contemplative opportunities have long been one of the central elements of the student experience at Holy Cross. In particular, The Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius Loyola has been a cornerstone in the process of students’ spiritual discernment and reflection. Countless retreatants have called the retreat “life-changing,” and cited it as one of the most memorable weeks of their four years on Mount St. James. But for years, the College was forced to secure facilities that were often distant from campus, limited in terms of space, or unsuited to the needs of the retreat.

“We have always wanted a permanent home,” says Kearns-Barrett. “A space where the pace of life can be slowed in order to allow for the contemplation that can bring self-knowledge and wisdom. The Joyce Center marks the start of a new era. The College now has its own beautiful facility dedicated to prayer and reflection. We are so grateful and excited.”

“The Joyce Center is an important statement about who we are,” says College President, Philip L. Boroughs, S.J.  “As a Jesuit and Catholic institution, this striking facility embodies our commitment to becoming contemplatives in action, engaging in prayerful discernment, and developing an openness to God’s transformative and healing love for us. So formed, we can engage the needs of our world with greater compassion and justice. I am pleased that this is the first capital project of our campaign to be completed as it is so central to our institutional mission.”

Rev. William R. Campbell, S.J., ’87, the College’s vice president for mission, agrees. “This will allow us to better fulfill our responsibility to the development of the whole person,” he says. “The Joyce Center will be a sanctuary for Holy Cross, a sacred place for renewal—both individually and as a community.”

At a ribbon-cutting ceremony and blessing of the facility on Sept. 10, Thomas P. Joyce Jr. ’82 spoke for his entire family about the need for the Center and its centrality to the College’s identity and mission.

“I want to say how delighted we are to help create this magnificent Center for contemplation, for deepening and enriching the faith of our Holy Cross community,” he said. “This Center is our way of saying thank you in a manner that never seemed possible in Dad’s short time on earth.”

Going forward, Kearns-Barrett believes that the new building will allow the College to offer more vibrant, varied and frequent retreats for students, faculty and staff, and the alumni community.

“The response we have received from the alumni who have participated in our retreats has been tremendous,” according to Kearns-Barrett. “There is a beauty and a continuity in seeing individuals who had profound experiences on retreat as students, come back and reignite that spirit of self-inquiry and engagement with concerns of the soul.

“There is no one type of person who should go on retreat,” she says. “We like to say that our programs, ‘meet you where you are.’ This will be a place of stillness.
A place for discovery and renewal.”

Rita Joan Santelli ’95 agrees. A recent participant in the women’s retreat, Santelli found the experience one of profound enrichment.

“Sometimes,” she explains, “We need to escape to God. I need to visit with Him and envelop myself in his magnificent caress. An escape from the seduction of even positive distractions from connecting with Him makes all the difference. A Jesuit retreat allowed me to enter my soul, and to dig deeper, stretch wider and rise higher. The experience of the Holy Cross spiritual exercises provides a divine grace.”

For Kathleen Wade ’86, another alumna who recently went on a retreat, the experience was a revelation.

“I was apprehensive going into the retreat,” she says. “It was held during Lent, and I steeled myself for a weekend of deserved scolding. But in the stillness of the retreat, I encountered a warming, caring, merciful God I had not taken the time to see before. I cannot wait for the fall retreat!”

While a long time in the making, the Thomas P. Joyce ’59 Contemplative Center has been worth the wait. Kearns-Barrett is excited to utilize the new facility to its full potential.

“By prioritizing and investing our resources in a place that is designed to help us slow down and notice, a place that invites us to be with God,” she says, “we communicate to the Holy Cross family—students, alumni, staff and faculty—that place matters. This place, this beautiful Holy Cross Joyce Contemplative Center, has the potential and power to shape the landscape of our lives.”  ■