The Redemptorist Retreat Center

A Place of Peace in a Busy World
By 1927, the world had become a pretty amazing place.  Lindbergh had flown over the Atlantic and Admiral Byrd had flown over the North Pole.  There were transatlantic telephone calls and even movies that talked.   All this "progress" had a way of distracting people away from God, and so it was with the idea of bringing men and women back to God that the Redemptorists began the retreat movement in Oconomowoc.
During the summer of 1927 when the students moved to Snyder's pasture, the seminary building was readied for its first retreatants.  The Knights of Columbus from Beaver Dam led off with a good crowd of 41 men.  Father Polk, a veteran Redemptorist missionary, led the conferences.
Of course, in the beginning there were a lot of difficulties to be ironed out.  Fr. Polk, for example, was an easy talker.  He could ramble on for hours.  And he did, so the annals say.  Results?   Hungry retreatants, cold suppers, and impatient cooks.   Father Polk himself decided to take drastic measures.  He placed a "Big Ben" alarm clock on the altar.  When his half-hour was up, 'Big Ben" began to shriek.   Unconsciously, without interrupting his flow of talk, the old missionary swung his huge hand back and snuffed "Big Ben" out.  Fifty minutes later the conference ended.
Through the combined effort of the Redemptorists and support from the Catholic laity throughout southeastern Wisconsin, the retreat movement grew until the start of World War II.  Each weekend packed in capacity crowds of 130 retreatants.  Still, the lay retreat movement was makeshift.  Ordinarily only six or seven retreats were given each year because the students would have to move back into the seminary once summer had ended.  In spite of these restrictions, the retreat movement acquired an admirable record.  About 182 retreats were preached over forty years, seeing nearly 14,500 retreatants step out of the world's noisy rush to attend to the business of seeking God.
That is a fair record.  But it will be greater in the years to come.
faulk1.gif (15944 bytes) In 1960 the Redemptorists announced that with the enrollment of 116 seminarians due in the fall, there would be no room for the retreat program.  A new facility needed to be found.  In 1961 the Redemptorists purchased part of the former General Otto H. Falk estate on Crooked Lake for this purpose.  After remodeling the estate and building a new 60-room retreat center to house retreatants, Fr. Patty Schwarz, C.Ss.R. preached the first retreat on October 12, 1963.  Ninty-one retreatants renewed their love for God that weekend.  The center was dedicated in honor of Our Mother of Perpetual Help.
After seventy-one years of preaching lay retreats in Oconomowoc, Redemptorists continue to remain true to the spirit of Saint Alphonsus.  We have been graced by the hundreds of thousands of men and women, over these many years, who have searched and have discovered this place of peace in a busy world.




Renewal, Rest and Contemplative Reflection

1800 North Timber Trail Lane
Oconomowoc, WI 53066-4897
(262) 567-6900 Fax (262) 567-0134

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