An ‘oasis’ of Solitude opens at Nazareth House retreat center

Photo Caption: The newly built “Solitude of the Sacred Heart” is ready to welcome individual guests to its quiet, reflective location overlooking the Illinois River on the grounds of Nazareth House near Henry.

By: By Tom Dermody

HENRY — One of the Diocese of Peoria’s smallest building projects stands ready to play a giant role in many lives.

One at a time.

On Monday, Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, blessed and dedicated “The Solitude of the Sacred Heart,” a 16-by-20-foot, two-room dwelling on the grounds of Nazareth House, the diocesan retreat center.

“This is one of my dreams,” said the bishop of the hermitage, which is now open for use by individual priests, deacons, religious and laity throughout the diocese seeking a place for silent prayer and reflection.

“There’s so much noise in people’s lives today,” continued the bishop, “with phones and computers always beeping.” The Solitude of the Sacred Heart, located at the edge of a wooded bluff with a spectacular view of the Illinois River, offers a place to “just be quiet and be with the Lord.”

The building project was made possible thanks to a “significant” donation from Beth A. Winebrenner, a resident of West Lafayette, Ind. Bishop Jenky has known Winebrenner since she was in graduate school at the University of Notre Dame and has provided her with spiritual direction.

While the donor was unable to be present, she was remembered with gratitude Monday as Bishop Jenky blessed the tiny structure in a private ceremony. Among those in attendance were members of the Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary, who operate Nazareth House.

The Solitude was completed in November and has already had guests, said Sister Delia Marie Morales, SCTJM. She called the house “an oasis” where individuals can rest, read a book, create artwork, reflect on life’s journey, pray for guidance, or just “be in the presence of God.”

Featuring a hardwood floor and pitched ceiling, as well as plentiful windows through which to ponder the surrounding natural beauty, the dwelling is sparsely yet adequately furnished with bedding, shower, a small refrigerator, a microwave oven, a CD player, a recliner and a writing table.

The maximum stay per visit is seven days, and the minimum age for retreatants is 21. There is a recommended donation of $35 per day. Guests can bring their own meals or make meal arrangements with Nazareth Center staff. The chapel at Nazareth House is also available for prayer before the Blessed Sacrament.

Deacon Bob Sondag, vice chancellor, credited Andrew Hagemann, director of properties for the diocese, and the skills of Kevin Smith of the Smith Building Center in Henry for making the Solitude a reality at an ideal location. The house is within easy walking distance of the retreat center, yet separated by a hill across the main entry road.

Deacon Sondag said the Solitude provides a place for “serious development of your relationship to God.” He especially encouraged those who regularly share the faith to seek renewal there.

“To be efficient in ministry you have to take care of yourself, grow spiritually yourself,” he reminded.

Bishop Jenky said the structure is “exactly what I envisioned.” If it proves popular, “we might be able to build another one,” he added.

But not too near this one.

For more information on reserving The Solitude of the Sacred Heart, call Nazareth House at (309) 364-3084. More information is available online at Nazareth Retreat House.

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