OMAHA, Neb. — Working to establish and build a business that would become one of the largest discount brokerages in the country – TD Ameritrade – Joe Ricketts found some 20 years ago he was drifting away from the Catholic faith and values that formed him growing up in Nebraska City.
But Ricketts, a member of St. Margaret Mary Parish in Omaha, said he rediscovered his faith on a three-day retreat at the Demontreville Jesuit Retreat House near St. Paul, Minnesota.
And once a year for 14 years he returned for retreats based on St. Ignatius of Loyola’s spiritual exercises of prayer, silence, spiritual guidance and contemplative reading of Scripture.
Now, he wants to offer the same kind of experience to others, closer to Omaha, and in a big way.
With the blessing of Archbishop George J. Lucas, Ricketts said he will build a chapel, retreat center and cabins to house 80 men or 80 women for weekend retreats on 930 acres he purchased for $13.6 million Dec. 5 along the Platte River between Omaha and Lincoln.
Construction will start this spring and it will open in 2018, Ricketts said.
A board of directors, appointed with input from Archbishop Lucas, will manage the retreat center, with plans to offer about 50, three-day retreats a year based on St. Ignatius’ spiritual exercises.
Deacon Mike DeSelm and other members of the West Omaha Serra Club will be among the first to hear about Ricketts’ plans for the retreat center when he attends the club’s March 16 meeting.
“I think there will be a lot of people interested in what he has to offer,” Deacon DeSelm told the Catholic Voice, Omaha’s archdiocesan newspaper. And deacons generally go on a retreat at least once a year, so having another option close to home could help men in that program, he said.
Deacon Tim McNeil, chancellor of the archdiocese, said he and Archbishop Lucas toured the site Dec. 16.
“He was impressed with the plans for the property,” Deacon McNeil said of the archbishop. “He embraced the mission, that Joe Ricketts was offering a facility with the objective of enriching people’s spiritual lives.”
Ricketts said his meeting with the West Omaha Serra Club is among the first of several talks he plans to have with church groups in the archdiocese about St. Ignatius’ spiritual exercises – including a March 9 meeting with the Serra Club of Omaha. He hopes to train others to hold similar pep talks and over time build a directory of about 6,000 people who would be interested in attending such a retreat once a year.
Until the center is built, these retreats will be offered at the St. Benedict Center near Schuyler or other selected sites. One such retreat last fall drew about 30 men, Ricketts said. Two are scheduled for men this year – in October and November – and three retreats, one for women, will be offered in 2016.
Driving his efforts is a desire to share the spiritual exercises with others, after they helped set his life on a straighter course, Ricketts said.
“Sometimes you get so busy you don’t think about what you need to reaffirm those values,” such as staying honest and being kind to others, Ricketts said. “You can’t just reason those away.”
Asked about the cost of the retreat center, Ricketts declined to discuss details but acknowledged it would be expensive.
“What am I going to spend my money on?” he asked. “Spoiling my grandkids? Well, maybe a little. … Or do I leave them with the foundation that religion is important?”