The Jesuit Retreat Center of Los Altos sits on 38 acres in Los Altos.
Centers able to offer personal or private retreats
Individual retreats start with a "personal conversation" at Santa Sabina in San Rafael.
With busy lives, traffic jams, commuter trains that regularly break down, car problems and relationship and job stress, have you ever felt as if you are on a treadmill and that you're running to keep from falling?
A personal or private retreat may be the respite you are looking for.
A personal retreat is like a time-out for one's soul. It can take different forms — a day or week spent resting and disconnecting from our fast-paced world. It is where the weary can seek prayer or spiritual direction in a supportive and contemplative environment.
Where are these islands of peace and sanity located? Catholic retreat centers can be found throughout the Bay Area.
Here are some of the centers and current programs, listed alphabetically by city:
2300 Adeline Drive, Burlingame
Many visitors to Mercy Center in Burlingame, operated by the Sisters of Mercy, feel that time spent making a private or directed retreat has not only rejuvenated their soul but given them an opportunity to experience healing, growth and transformation.
Mercy Center offers private and directed retreats. Directed retreats are structured and guided by a spiritual director who provides support in the form of a person who listens. Individual retreatants can determine if they want to follow-up on their direction sessions.
The cost for an overnight retreat (per day, with meals) is $100; overnight retreat (per day, no meals) is $85; day retreat (no meals, not overnight) is $40 and one session of spiritual direction is $40. Thirty-day retreats may be arranged for those making the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius.
Call the reservation department at 650-340-7454 or complete the online request form with your preferred dates. The center cannot guarantee that your preferred dates will be available.
Visit the website at www.mercy-center.org/ for more information, including the center's cancellation policy.
710 Highland Drive, Danville
At a time in her life when she felt unfulfilled in her job and routine Janet Gardner went to the San Damiano Retreat Center seeking spiritual direction. She needed assistance to discern where God was leading her next. With the help and encouragement of her spiritual director and the Holy Spirit, Gardner enrolled at the Franciscan School of Theology.
Eight years later Gardner returned to the Danville retreat center where she is now happily employed. "My spirit found a home with the Franciscans," she said. "Life has come full circle."
To request a personal retreat at San Damiano, visit the website at www.sandamiano.org or 925-837-9141. Cost is $100 for the first night and $85 for each additional night. All meals are included.
The Jesuit Retreat Center of Los Altos
300 Manresa Way, Los Altos
The Jesuit Retreat Center of Los Altos — El Retiro San Iñigo — offers a variety of retreats — silent and not, for men or women or both. Retreats with themes of forgiveness, ways to pray, Ignatian spirituality, to prepare for Christmas or Easter, or retreats for a particular group — for example, young adults, veterans or people in recovery — dot the calendar.
The center's well-known eight-day and 30-day Ignatian spiritual retreats are on the summer calendar. Rev. Greg Boyle, SJ, founder of Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles, is offering a weekend retreat, "Be Fearless For Me: Courage and the Gospel of the Marginalized," in mid-April.
El Retiro also offers options for those seeking a private retreat, or a retreat with access to spiritual direction. Each person has a private room with a bath, and the opportunity to enjoy the center's 38 hilly, tranquil acres and three meals a day in a dining room with a view of the Santa Clara Valley.
A private retreat or an individually directed retreat should be scheduled at least three weeks in advance. A private retreat may run from one day through eight days; the individually directed retreat may last four, five or eight days. The cost per night for either retreat is $145.
More information is available at www.jrclosaltos.org. Call 650-917-4000 or
email email@example.com for reservations.
250 Oak Grove Ave, Menlo Park
Private retreats with spiritual direction from a priest are available at Vallombrosa Retreat Center in Menlo Park. The beautiful grounds, not far from St. Joseph Seminary and University, with lawns and towering trees, offer a natural place for prayer and reflection.
The name "Vallombrosa" means "shady glen," and refers to a beautiful forested area southeast of Florence, Italy. It was there in 1095 that St. John Gualbert established a monastery of Benedictine monks that survives to this day. At one point in his life, John Milton visited that monastery, and he wrote of the "shady glens of Vallombrosa" in his "Paradise Lost."
Modern-day Vallombrosa, a ministry of the Archdiocese of San Francisco, offers marriage preparation retreats and other planned retreats. It is also available to groups seeking retreats.
Accommodations include rooms with private bath, and three meals are served daily in the communal dining room. To arrange a private retreat, contact David Leech, operations assistant, at 650-325-5614. At least two weeks' notice is required to schedule a private retreat. Additional information about the center is available at www.vallombrosa.org.
Santa Sabina Retreat Center
25 Magnolia Ave., San Rafael
A "personal conversation" must take place before any retreat can be arranged at Santa Sabina Retreat Center, run by the Dominican Sisters of San Rafael. This gives Sister Raya Hanlon OP, the center's assistant director, the opportunity to find out what a person is looking for. If a person is looking for a community experience, for example, they would have to look elsewhere because that is not an experience offered at Santa Sabina.
In addition to the "personal conversation" individuals should visit the center's website at to get a better idea of what is available. The cost of arranging a private stay overnight is $75 per night. Often people making such an arrangement have also registered to participate in other programs offered at Santa Sabina. The program for Tuesday evenings ($100) is the music of Hildegard; a Day of Prayer is scheduled to take place on Wednesdays ($100); and on Wednesday evenings the program is the Teilhard de Chardin study group.
Sister Raya Hanlon can be reached at 415-457-7727;
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