Longtime Catholic retreat to close

Marie Havenga • Jul 21, 2015 at 12:37 PM

Operations will cease at St. Lazare Retreat House, 18600 W. Spring Lake Road, on July 31.

A closing ceremony is planned for Sunday, July 28, from 3-5 p.m. It will be open to the public.

The 25-acre parcel will then be put up for sale.

Father Vincent O'Malley, director of St. Lazare Retreat House for the past five years, said societal changes and priest shortages have led to declining attendance.

“It seems people have less time and money to spend at a weekend retreat,” he said. “I think people are apprehensive about the quiet that we have here.”

St. Lazare's has housed about 2,000 people a year for retreat weekends, mostly from within the Diocese of Grand Rapids.

O'Malley said the facility has served more than 100,000 retreaters since it was built in 1953. It has been averaging 45 weekend retreats each year.

A decade ago, about 45 people attended each retreat. That number has dropped to about 35, according to O'Malley.

The facility is operated by the Vincentians, a community founded by St. Vincent DePaul in 1625. Headquartered in Philadelphia, the Vincentians have about 3,000 members worldwide.

O'Malley said the decision to close the retreat house came from the superior of the Vincentian community in Philadelphia, and his counsel.

About 20 years ago, there were close to 600 Catholic retreat houses in the nation, according to O'Malley. That number has dwindled to less than 200.

To read more of this story, see today’s print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.

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