Located near Elkhorn, the site of the St. Vincent Pallotti Retreat Center was a dude ranch at one time, according to Pallottine Fr. Leon Martin, provincial of the Mother of God Province.
That was before 1956, the year the Pallottine Fathers moved their novitiate from Maryland to the property, situated about 35 miles southwest of Milwaukee.
The St. Vincent Pallotti Center, N6409 Bowers Road, has hosted retreats since 1962. During the past five decades, thousands of people have been welcomed to the rural, peaceful setting surrounded by woods and farmland.
On Sunday, Sept. 9, the center will celebrate its 50-year history. The event is an opportunity to see the facility, walk the outdoor labyrinth and follow paths through the woods to reach a picturesque stream that crosses the property.
The retreat center’s handsome main house, with a unique stone façade, was built in 1928.
“It’s a cozy, homey place,” Fr. Martin said. “You don’t have to walk far to get to the different areas, such as the chapel and dining room; you don’t walk down long corridors. It’s more like staying overnight in a house.”
“The grounds are beautiful with the hills and the trees,” added Carolyn Csongradi, who handles the administration of the center.
|The St. Vincent Pallotti Retreat Center will celebrate its 50-year history on Sunday, Sept. 9. Bishop Donald J. Hying will officiate at the 1 p.m. Mass at St. Peter Church, 1981 Beulah Ave., East Troy, and an open house at the retreat center, N6409 Bowers Road, Elkhorn, is from 2 to 5 p.m. that day.|
Fr. Martin said retreat guests also comment on the food that is served. The meals are prepared by the center’s cooks and Csongradi works with those planning the retreats to offer options that fit the participants’ tastes.
“I’ll also ask about any food allergies,” she added.
Assisting Csongradi is a husband and wife team, Kris and Muffy Rhyner, who live on the property in the caretakers’ house.
Facility hosts variety of retreats
Year-round, the center hosts weekend, overnight and day retreats, welcoming high school students, confirmation classes, parish staffs, committees and other groups, as well as individuals seeking a prayerful setting.
For information about the retreat center, contact
With the space available in the chapel, dining room and meeting room, Fr. Martin said groups up to about 40 people can be comfortably accommodated.
The center features 14 rooms with private baths and 44 individual beds, and also offers a meditation room, large meeting room with fireplace and audio-visual equipment, and a small meeting room.
In the main house, the bedrooms used by retreat participants are the home’s original bedrooms and each one has two to three beds; an addition built in 1967 includes larger bedrooms with space for three to five beds in each room.
An in-ground pool was removed years ago and now a basketball court and fire pit are located there.
“That’s popular with the young people,” Fr. Martin said.
In winter, youth-group participants can sled down the snowy hills, Csongradi said.
The 147-acre property is pie-shaped, with the smaller end at Bowers Road, fanning back toward the stream.
“It’s not flat land. It’s hilly and the trails take you up and down in the woods,” Fr. Martin said. It’s about a 15-minute walk to the stream where benches offer guests a place to sit and reflect.
The labyrinth, in the grass near the retreat center’s entrance, offers another special place to walk and meditate.
History includes expansion
After the Pallottines moved their novitiate to Phelps, in the Superior Diocese in 1962, the Elkhorn property was first used as a retreat facility by Milwaukee Pius XI High School students.
The school’s faculty, aided by the School Sisters of St. Francis, helped with the facility’s makeover; even Fr. Martin played a role.
“In 1962, I was at the seminary in Madison and I remember we took beds and mattresses out there,” he said.
From 1962 through 1964, about 1,250 students had made a retreat at Pallotti Hall, as it was first named. The setting became popular with other Catholic high schools and groups. To provide more space, an addition to the property was completed in 1967, which now houses the chapel and great room. Archbishop William E. Cousins formally dedicated the St. Vincent Pallotti Center on Sept. 27, 1967.
The retreat center remains a popular location. Csongradi suggests planning a weekend retreat six months ahead.
“The weekends fill fast here, especially in fall. During the week, the schedule is more open,” she said.
Groups bring their own facilitators for retreats at the St. Vincent Pallotti Center, and a spiritual director is available on a prearranged basis.