Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Missionaries of Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary Transform House of Studies into Retreat Center for Priests

Some 20 years ago, the Missionaries of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary established a House of Studies in Fairfield, built and designed specifically for their seminarians to live, eat and pray during their years of formation.

The expansive ranch house and its handsome chapel were built on a scenic tract of land above Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church, where priests of the religious order have been serving since 1993.

Father Peter DiTomasso, MSSCC, was once a seminarian at the House of Studies, enjoying prayer, meals, camaraderie and community with his brothers in formation, while they studied at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary ten miles away in Emmitsburg, Md.

Today, Father DiTomasso is pastor of Immaculate Conception and nearby St. Rita’s in Blue Ridge Summit, living within view of the house that helped form him.

Today, the House of Studies is mostly quiet and empty. Its sole inhabitant is Father Marsianus Leu, MSSCC, who serves as parochial vicar to the two parishes and tends to the retreat center.

With ample space in a bucolic countryside conducive to prayer and reflection, the religious order has transformed the House of Studies into a place of retreat for priests of the Diocese of Harrisburg.

“We were trying to come up with ways this facility could be used. I talked with my Superior General and he was open to the idea of making it a retreat house, as was Bishop Senior,” Father DiTomasso said, while giving The Witness a recent tour.

The house has plenty to offer priests seeking respite for a day or a weekend. The St. Gaetano Errico Chapel, named for the founder of the Missionaries of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, has ample space and is bathed in natural light from its stained-glass windows. Images of the saint, canonized in 2008 for his ardent devotion to the Sacred Hearts, abound throughout the house and its grounds.

There are five private bedrooms, a full library, a spacious living room and a separate dining room and kitchen. Outside, the land overlooking Fairfield provides sweeping views of southwestern Adams County and plenty of space to walk, rest, reflect and pray.

“It’s a quiet area, surrounded by mountains, but still central to towns and areas of interest, like Emmitsburg and Gettysburg,” Father DiTomasso said. “The idea is to give priests a quiet place of retreat if they need to get away for a day or a weekend.”

The cost for a weekend stay is $250, with an additional $50 if priests wish to take their meals at the center. Father DiTomasso and Father Leu can also be available to hear priests’ Confessions.

“I love this place because it’s like always being on retreat. It is a quiet place,” said Father Leu, a native of Indonesia. “Sometimes as priests, we get very busy in the parishes, and need a quiet place like this for reflection and prayer. When I’m here, I can make time for it.”

The center is currently open and ready to welcome Diocesan priests, who can contact Father DiTomasso at frpditomasso@hbgdiocese.org for inquiries.

“Our center offers a great place for them to recharge their batteries, an opportunity to get away and spend time with the Lord here in this beautiful place,” he said. “It’s certainly an inviting place to be.”

(Photos by Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness.)

By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness

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