WAVERLY (SNR) – On October 10, 1963, a group of men gathered at the newly constructed Our Lady of Good Counsel Retreat House near Waverly for the very first retreat set on the beautiful, rolling grounds of the Catholic Center.
Father Gary Coulter, current director at the retreat house, noted that since that first retreat, “tens of thousands of people have found Good Counsel Retreat House to be a place of refuge and solitude, a place of renewal and conversion, a place of sanctuary and prayer.”
This summer, the retreat house completed a renovation project of 25 of the guest rooms. Bishop James Conley blessed the remodeled rooms and confessional at the start of one of the priests’ annual retreats.
“After 55 years, our rooms with individual bathrooms showed their age.” Father Coulter said, “the first impetus for the renovation was upgrading the original showers, but other things were reaching their replacement age and thus the further decision to refurbish the rooms.”
Father Coulter noted that the goal was not only to give the retreat rooms a modern feel, but also “to create individual space for quiet, prayerful solitude and peace. The central focus in each room is now a large framed image of Our Lady hanging alongside the crucifix, making it a place of prayer and reflection.”
Al Zach, development director and office manager at the Retreat House since 2009, said feedback has been excellent.
“People are very pleased with the appearance, the tall shower heads, and new carpet,” he said. “They appreciate the soft tones of the color scheme, the new artwork, and the new, bright lighting of the room.”
Char Kriz, owner of Ambiance by Design, the designer and general contractor, said the goal of the design narrative was to update a 1960s motif to a timeless renovation.
“The décor was given a modern facelift with painting, carpet, bedding, draperies, sconce lighting, onyx showers, fixtures and tile, all updating 50 years of architecturally blended appointments,” she said.
“A unique challenge to the renovation project was the aggressive time frame due to the scheduling of Good Counsel Retreat House,” she added, saying the limited budget of wanting to use nonprofit dollars wisely, such as repurposing existing furniture.
“With any renovation, you fear the unforeseen and unknown,” Char continued, “but by the grace of God, we had few surprises. The structure of the building is amazingly intact and strong, helping maintain the scheduled construction timelines and constraints.”
Char was grateful to be part of a project that was over two years in planning, and will have implications for years to come, “to give people a place to go to surrender, to feel a sense of calm, serenity and peace. We were very pleased with what we were able to achieve.”
Char’s husband and son, Gene and Dan Kriz, all worked as part of the project.
“For us it is part of stewardship, using our gifts in service,” she said.
Char thanked the Knights of the Holy Eucharist, Franciscan religious brothers who live and work at the retreat house, for their assistance.
“They were so helpful with the project and stepped in whenever extra manpower was needed,” she explained, “but it was more than that: their dedication and limitless generosity. They are so willing to help with any need and always had a smile on their face. I hope more people get a chance to meet and work with the Knights of the Holy Eucharist.”
Al Zach said he wanted to thank all who helped make this project a success.
“I want to thank the generous benefactors who made this possible,” he said. “We are very appreciative of the people who anonymously gave to this project and support our apostolate here at the retreat house. We also want to thank the contractors and volunteers, including the Knights of the Holy Eucharist and lay volunteers who helped.”
He added that there are further upgrades of rooms and the facility they would like to do.
“They will be done on God’s time as he provides what we need,” he said. “We pledge to be good stewards of whatever resources come our way.”
Father Coulter also concluded with thanks.
“By the grace of God we came in on time and on budget, which was a huge blessing,” he said. “It was very professionally done and money well spent: a simple and pleasing environment without distractions so people can instead focus on God Who is truly present.”