Dominican Retreat to close

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After 53 years serving the people of the Arlington Diocese and the Washington area, the Dominican Retreat in McLean will close at the end of 2015. The retreat house will continue to operate until August 2015. Programs that are already scheduled up to that time will be held.

Dominican Sister Margaret Ormond, prioress, and Bill Hummel, chairman of the board of directors, made the announcement in early October. Hummel cited the financial gap between income and expenses and the lack of funds necessary for the increasing needs of the buildings. But more importantly, the lack of available sisters to carry this ministry into the future was the impetus for the decision to close. The median age of the sisters is 77 years. This trend mirrors the age of Catholic sisters all over the country. In addition, other retreat centers across the United States experience the same challenges of rising costs and facilities that need expensive maintenance.

"This is a painful decision that comes after tremendous hard work and effort on the part of the sisters here," said Sister Margaret. "At the same time, we have so much to be grateful for. I believe that the grace and gifts God has bestowed on the people who come to Dominican Retreat will continue to bring life and healing far beyond this place and time."

Hummel expressed his appreciation for the sisters on staff whom he said were the heart of the ministry of the house and without them, there is no ministry. "Their fidelity to the mission of the Church and their hard work on behalf of the people of God is a priceless legacy," he said. "The sisters have touched the lives of countless people (Catholic and non-Catholic alike) for the last half century. May we honor them by preaching the Gospel with the same selfless spirit. Their legacy demands nothing less."

"I am grateful for the many years of service that the Dominican Sisters have given to those who have visited the retreat center since its opening," said Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde. "I regret that the retreat center will be closing, but I do understand the reasons for which the sisters have come to this painful decision."

The Dominican Retreat, located at 7103 Old Dominion Drive in McLean, was founded by the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine de' Ricci in 1961 to serve the spiritual needs of women and men. The sisters offered weekend and day retreats in a variety of formats that included general programs, retreats for members of AA and AL-anon, centering prayer retreats, programs for people facing serious illness, Spanish-speaking retreat and many others.

In 2012, the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine de' Ricci merged with the Dominican Sisters of Peace, based in Columbus, Ohio. The congregation's ministries extend to 26 states and in missions overseas in Honduras, Nigeria and Peru. The sisters operate several other retreat centers, a number of educational institutions, eco-spirituality centers and health care centers.

Sisters engage in a variety of ministries as teachers, religious educators, lawyers, advocates for the poor and marginalized, health care professionals, artists, spiritual directors. They serve as pastoral care givers, counselors and volunteers as well.

The congregation is particularly committed to a number of ministries that pay close attention to the care of the Earth through ecology centers, and they advocate for affordable housing, sensible gun control and an end to human trafficking, among other peace and justice issues.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2014