Diocesan News

Our Lady of Good Counsel Retreat House marks 50th anniversary

OUR LADY OF GOOD COUNSEL RETREAT HOUSE - The quiet setting of Our Lady of Good Counsel Retreat House in Waverly allows retreatants to take time away from their busy lives for a short time, and focus on their relationship with God. Bishop James Conley will celebrate Mass at the retreat house chapel Oct. 10, the 50th anniversary of its first retreat. (SNR photo by Cathy Blankenau Bender))

WAVERLY (SNR) - For five decades, the Our Lady of Good Counsel Retreat House in Waverly has provided a quiet and beautiful setting for those who wish to deepen their relationship with God.

On the 50th anniversary of its first retreat, Thursday, Oct. 10, Bishop James D. Conley will celebrate a Votive Mass in the retreat house chapel. The Mass will begin at 6 p.m., and a dinner will follow.

Many thousands of people have experienced the benefits of going on retreat in Waverly, including Gene Buhman of St. Joseph Parish in York. He and his friend, John Swanson of St. Ann Parish in Doniphan, have been attending retreats together for the last 10 years or more.

Buhman said the men hold each other accountable, making that annual retreat a priority.

"And we can discuss more about the retreat with each other after we get back," he added.

Both men agree their annual retreats have been extremely beneficial.

"You always walk away with a new nugget that challenges you," said Swanson.

Father Gary Coulter, who was appointed director of Our Lady of Good Counsel Retreat House last June, said retreats are extremely important – so much so that priests and religious sisters are required to go on at least one retreat each year.

"We all need those moments to recharge and to get a proper perspective on life," he said.

The most valuable amenity at Our Lady of Good Counsel Retreat House is silence. Away from the constant bustle, conversation and electronic buzz of daily life, people are free to open up their minds and hearts to the Lord.

"Giving God that 48 hours of uninterrupted attention is really why I go," Swanson said. "Just to go away and do nothing else but focus on your faith and your relationship with Jesus is absolutely fabulous."

Our Lady of Good Counsel Retreat House owes its beginning to Bishop James V. Casey, who sought to provide opportunities for people to deepen their relationships with the Lord.

In November 1959, Bishop Casey arranged with the Franciscan Friars of the Sacred Heart of Saint Louis to build and manage a retreat house in rural Waverly. Construction began in April 1962.

Set on beautiful, rolling grounds, the retreat house includes a chapel, library, and dining room to serve the people who come. Fifty individual rooms are equipped with private bathrooms.

The Franciscans maintained Good Counsel Retreat House until 1978, when lack of personnel made it impossible for them to continue. It was transferred over to the Diocese of Lincoln, and since then has relied on the generosity of various altar societies, local Knights of Columbus councils, and individuals to keep it running.

Volunteers, originally organized as Third Order Franciscans, help clean the facility, wash linens and make beds, plant flowers and more. This keeps both operating costs and suggested retreat donations low.

Father Coulter said lack of funds shouldn’t keep people from going on retreat. Many parishes will help pay up to half the cost of a retreat. Some retreatants pay more than the suggested donation to offset costs for others, and there are generous benefactors who provide scholarships.

"We couldn’t take everybody on retreat for free, but this is so important, we don’t want the cost to be a factor," Father Coulter asserted.

Each year, between 20 and 25 retreat weekends are scheduled for lay men and women. Another 14 weekends are set aside for Engaged Encounter. The retreat house also hosts midweek "Days of Reflection." All in all, about 2,500 individuals can be served each year.

Retreats typically begin on a Friday evening and end after lunch on Sunday. Activities include Mass, talks and meditations offered by the retreat master - usually a diocesan priest, although there are guest retreat masters throughout the year - an opportunity to receive the Sacrament of Penance, and more.

Linda Burnley of St. Wenceslaus Parish in Wahoo said that having the time to really think through the talks given by the retreat master in complete silence, without any pressing responsibilities, is particularly helpful.

"I don’t have that kind of opportunity in my daily life," she said.

Even meals are easy. Delicious, healthy food is provided three times a day, and snacks and beverages are available around the clock.

"You come in sometimes thinking of fasting and it never works," laughed Swanson.

In fact, the cooking staff offers catering services on the side as a revenue stream for the retreat house. Selections from their extensive menu can be served either at the retreat house or another venue.

Swanson and Buhman agreed that everyone should go on a retreat, and Burnley echoed their sentiments.

"There’s something for everybody," she stated.

Paraphrasing a recent statement by Pope Benedict XVI, pope emeritus, Father Coulter said, "All of us need to look for God, to search for Him."

He continued, "You have to schedule the times of silence and times of prayer. You have to schedule time to go on retreat. If you wait until you have time to go, it will never happen."

To attend the celebratory dinner, or to make a donation in honor of our 50th Anniversary, please send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call (402)-786-2705. Secure donations can also be made online at www.goodcounselretreat.com, where a complete schedule of upcoming retreats is available as well. Those interested may sign up for the retreat house’s newsletter by email, or follow the retreat house on Facebook.

Upcoming Retreats

Oct. 18-20 Men and Women’s Retreat with Fr. Thomas Dunavan, "The Life of Faith"

Fr. Dunavan is pastor of St. Andrew Church in Tecumseh and St. Mary Church in St. Mary, and is an administrator and teacher at St Andrew School, Tecumseh. He is also associate director of Hispanic ministry in the Diocese of Lincoln, and a chaplain at the Tecumseh State Correctional Institution.

Oct. 25-25 Men and Women’s Retreat with Fr. David Oldham, "Open the Door of Faith" (Catechists)

Another Year of Faith retreat will be given by Fr. David Oldham Oct. 25-27, to "Open the Door of Faith." This retreat is especially designated for catechists, such as the teachers in our Catholic schools, religious education programs (CCD), youth groups, and Godteens, but Fr. Oldham also welcomes anyone who desires to grow in faith as a relationship with Christ. Fr. Oldham is pastor of Immaculate Conception Church in Rulo and St. Mary Church in Arago, and a teacher at Sacred Heart School, Falls City.

Nov. 2 All Soul’s Day - Day of Reflection with Bishop James Conley

All men are invited to a Day of Reflection with Bishop James Conley Saturday, Nov. 2, All Souls Day, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (come at 8:30 a.m. for registration, coffee and rolls). The Day of Reflection will include conferences by the bishop, plus Mass, lunch, confessions, and a holy hour. Advance registration is preferred but not required, (e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 402-786-2705). A donation to the retreat house is requested, but never required. The suggested donation is $50, but any amount will be accepted.

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