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A rare day off for Mother Teresa’s sisters

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When the Missionaries of Charity accepted Father John Riley’s recent invitation to take a brief break from their service to the needy in Washington and instead visit the San Damiano Spiritual Life Center in the breezy foothills of the Blue Ridge, he was elated.


“St. Teresa of Kolkata’s Missionaries of Charity spend all their lives giving themselves to Jesus in the ‘poorest of the poor,’ ” said Father Riley, who has worked with the missionaries in both the U.S. and Calcutta for many years and is spiritual director at the center, located in White Post. “We wanted to allow them an opportunity to enjoy some quiet time with him away from the noise and the crowds that press about them.”


Sister Francis Gabriel swiftly responded to the invitation. Accompanied by seven of her sisters, she explained that their Aug. 21 trip was not officially a retreat for them, but a “picnic” day when they are able to escape the doorbell and the ringing phones. One of the sisters remarked that the drive out was itself a retreat — especially when they first saw the mountains beckoning on the horizon as they headed west on I-66.


The sisters’ getaway came in conjunction with the eve of their feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary — a special holy day observed by the Missionaries of Charity. They savored the “opportunity to pray and just be with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and to wander about the green acres surrounding the chapel and main buildings,” according to Father Riley.


He hopes more will follow their lead and visit San Damiano. “Our hope is to extend hospitality to many more of our diocesan priests and parish families who’d like to ‘come aside and rest awhile’ here in the peaceful Shenandoah Valley.”


Find out more:


To learn more about retreats at San Damiano Spiritual Life Center, call 540/868-9220, email sandamiano@arlingtondiocese.org or go to arlingtondiocese.org/san-damiano-spiritual-life-center.


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2021