Cedarbrake Retreat Center seeks to expand

By Catholic Spirit Staff

Cedarbrake Catholic Retreat Center in Belton welcomes more than 7,000 people each year for a variety of retreats. As the Catholic population continues to grow and the retreat center serves more people, there is a need for more facilities. The greatest need is for more indoor space, especially on the weekends, said Brian Egan, director of Cedarbrake.

The Cedarbrake board of directors met last September and began discussing the best way to add indoor meeting space to meet the growing population of the diocese. The board agreed the best solution involved enclosing the Msgr. Driscoll pavilion, which could seat up to 60 people. The pavilion already has a solid foundation, steel beams and a metal roof. The recommendation was to enclose three sides with glass to capture the beauty of the surrounding nature, and to add a kitchen and restrooms to the west end of the pavilion and an access road to the kitchen that would also assist any handicap needs.

The board presented these ideas to Bishop Joe Vásquez and his advisory council and received permission to go forward. The board adopted Proverbs 3:5, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, on your own intelligence do not rely" as a daily prayer to place this project in God’s hands.

"We are not trying to build a physical building in as much as we are trying to build up the Kingdom of God. Every retreat center exists to bring people closer to God so the faithful in turn can bring God to the people," Egan said.

The board hired an architect, consulted with the diocesan Stewardship and Development Office, priests and laity, and began reaching out for support. Many people from the Austin Diocese and beyond have committed to supporting this project. Bishop Emeritus John McCarthy has also been a great supporter of this project, Egan said.

The estimated cost to renovate the pavilion, add restrooms, a kitchen, access road, furniture and landscaping is $300,000. To date more than $215,000 has been pledged to support the building.

Egan said the board and staff are truly humbled and grateful for the many who have already made a pledge.

Cedarbrake began with prayer. In 1973, Msgr. John Driscoll, pastor of St. Luke Parish in Temple, met with several parishioners to study and pray about the best use of 32 acres offered by Arthur and Irene O’Connor. Guided by the Holy Spirit, the committee decided that the land would best benefit the Catholic Church by being transformed into a retreat center. The offer was extended to Bishop Vincent Harris, who graciously accepted the deed in November 1973. Forty years later a wonderful retreat center has grown from the Lodge as the first building to a pavilion named after Msgr. Driscoll, a chapel and library, 48 private bedrooms and a new conference center.

When Bishop Harris retired in 1985 he wrote, "And now as I prepare to leave, I am pleased to know that so many people are using Cedarbrake. It is evident that we must keep building so that more and more people may be served." Two years ago the Diocese of Austin purchased 12 acres adjacent to the current property. Seven of these acres have been developed into prayer paths with beautiful scenery and reflective Scripture passages abounding.

To support this project, visit www.austindiocese.org  and click on the red "Donate" button, then select "Cedarbrake Light of Christ Campaign" and proceed.