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flourishes in Lafayette hills

Catholic Women of the Year lauded by Catholic Charities

CCISCO joins campaign urging lenders to restructure home mortgages

New superintendent of schools named

New documentary chronicles Soviet terror in Baltic republics and Lithuanian resistance

Students find inspiration for art
in new cathedral’s unique shape

Ten local non-profit groups receive major grants from CCHD

Chef to prepare four-course dinner
as benefit for Kitchen of Champions

J.S. Paluch Co. offers workshops Nov. 13
on various aspects of parish ministry

Scholarly works on Jesus offer complementary perspectives

Low-budget film a hit with marriage advocates

L.A. parishioner writes
‘talking Bible’ storybook

Oakland businessman named interim
president of St. John’s University

White House report aims to keep
inner-city Catholic schools open

Economy no excuse to delay solving health care crisis, CHA head says

Catholics, Muslims
to open new chapter
in religious dialogue

Honduran women travel to Mexico
in search of their missing relatives

OBITUARY: Brother Joseph Jerome Gallegos, F.S.C.

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placeholder November 3, 2008   •   VOL. 46, NO. 20   •   Oakland, CA

Paula Pardini, associate principal of St. Catherine School in Martinez, leads the eighth-grade class in a discussion in the retreat center’s conference room.
All photos by Greg Tarczynski
Youth Retreat Center
flourishes in Lafayette hills

The Diocesan Youth Retreat Center is nestled in the hills of Lafayette.

It’s only about 17 miles from the main office of the Oakland Diocese in downtown Oakland to the diocese’s Youth Retreat Center in Lafayette, but it feels like it’s a world away.

“It’s a little slice of heaven,” said Tim O’Hara, the center’s manager.

Set in the hills behind Queen of Heaven Cemetery, the center’s Spanish-style ranch house sits on 20 acres looking out at Mt. Diablo. Reportedly the one-time summer home of a wealthy San Francisco shipping family, the adobe building is now the stomping grounds for Confirmation groups, teen ministry programs, and scout troops.

“These kids are just fabulous. They love it here,” said O’Hara, who became caretaker in May after retiring from the Clayton Police Department.

Five cabins, each accommodating 12 to 15 people, are scattered throughout the property.

The teak-beamed living room and bedrooms of the original adobe house are now meeting and break-out rooms, and there is a commercial kitchen and dining area.
Nearby, five 12- to 15-person cabins—one is accessible to the disabled—line the road to a swimming pool. Hiking trails, a basketball court and an open-air stage surround five camp sites.

One repeat customer is Teena Posas, the youth ministry director for St. Joseph Parish in Pinole. For nine years she has been bringing high school students and college chaperones here for Confirmation preparation and peer ministry retreats.

Posas said features like the “cozy dining room” and “down to earth” feel of the main house are conducive to getting the teens to open up during retreat sessions. “Here, youth can focus on faith and grow as a community,” she said.

And the pool and basketball courts don’t hurt. “By Sunday a lot of them are saying ‘I’m not ready to go home,’” Posas said.

Eighth-graders Rosemary Cook and Ashley Westerland take a walk on one of the retreat center’s many paths and trails.

O’Hara, a parishioner at St. Bonaventure in Concord, stressed that priority booking goes to youth groups in the diocese, but the center is not restricted to youth, or even Catholic groups.

To draw in and accommodate more users, especially during the week, O’Hara wants to expand the facilities. “There’s a ton of property and a ton of potential,” he said.

Priorities are a chapel, more cabins and meeting rooms, and an all-weather playing field, he said, adding that working on these and other improvements would be great Eagle Scout and youth projects.

O’Hara would also like to replace the tattered carpet and teen-sullied chairs and sofas in the meeting areas, and said he would gladly come to pick up donated
furniture or carpet. Speaking of which, he said, “We also need a pick-up truck.”
Bill Ford, diocesan CYO director and a board member for the retreat center, said the diocese put about $1 million into renovating the property so youth would have their own place for retreats. It opened in 1984.

“The real value in it,” Ford said, is that “it makes a statement to youth that they are important to the Church.”

Weekend rates start at $75 per person, plus $35 per day per group for use of the kitchen. Most weekends are booked, O’Hara said, but there are always cancellations. For rates and availability, call (925) 934-5802.



Eighth-grade teacher Ryan Brasco rings the retreat center bell to signal the beginning of a session.

ABOVE: The retreat center has a swimming pool, basketball court and five camp sites.
RIGHT: Four eighth graders (from left) Rosemary Cook, Kyle Spangenberg, Ashley Westerland and Antonio Costa sit outside the main building.
 
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